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Dental implant with slow-release drug reservoir reduces infection risk

26 May 2011

In their study paper, the researchers note that implant developers are increasingly using materials with rough surfaces because they enlarge the contact area - thus improving anchorage with bone cells and integration into the bone. However, greater surface area also raises the risk of biofilm development.

In their study paper, the researchers note that implant developers are increasingly using materials with rough surfaces because they enlarge the contact area - thus improving anchorage with bone cells and integration into the bone. However, greater surface area also raises the risk of biofilm development.

The new implant is a composite of a silicon-based "diffusion barrier" integrated into a porous, load-bearing titanium structure.

The researchers subjected the implant to various laboratory tests, during which they filled the reservoir with chlorhexidine, a powerful antimicrobial commonly used as an oral rinse or mouthwash.

Tests showed that the chlorhexidine-filled implant stopped Streptococcus mutans - a common mouth bacterium that attacks teeth - from forming biofilms. It also eliminated biofilms that were grown on the implant before loading the reservoir.

Researchers say that the results prove that the implant is effective at both preventing and eliminating biofilms, and it may potentially be able to prevent and cure infections in patients.

Implant design suits personalized treatment

In a discussion with reviewers that accompanies the study paper, the authors point out that their work is a "proof of principle" based on tests done in the laboratory. Further research should now be done to show that the implants are effective in patients.

This needs to address several issues, including whether the new material fulfils the mechanical requirements of dental implants, and whether there is a risk of protein and calcification clogging up the pores.

The team also notes that the design of the titanium silicon composite implant suits personalized treatment; different drugs can be loaded into the internal reservoir, depending on the patient's individual need.

The authors conclude that:

"This study focuses on dental implant applications, but the concept could, in principle, be translated to any percutaneous implant that can incorporate an internal reservoir, such as percutaneous fixation devices, as long as this does not compromise the mechanical strength of such load-bearing devices."

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