An unfortunate result of a love affair with junk food, sweets, or juices is tooth decay, a condition often necessitating intervention in the form of a dental implant. Traditional dental implants are attached using titanium posts, surgically drilled into the jawbone. Problems that may arise from a patient fresh out of dental implant surgery include infection and separation of implant from bone. With this in mind, professors Tolou Shokuhfar, of Michigan Technological University, and Cortino Sukotjo, from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry, are currently working on a TiO2 nanotube coated titanium post that they claim is able to address both of these concerns. According to Shokuhfar, toxicity tests of the nanotube-coated titanium have demonstrated that it actually promotes bone cell growth, indicating that such an implant could prove to adhere better to a patient’s jawbone. Furthermore, the very nature of nanotube technology allows the TiO2 coating to have a couple of unique properties: it is entirely transparent, and the nanotubes could be loaded with an anti-inflammatory drug to be gradually released post-surgery. In order to fight infection, the TiO2 nanotubes can be laced with silver nanoparticles, which are natural anti-microbial agents.
Hopefully, as this technology is perfected and adapted for the market, it could minimize post-surgery infection and reduce the rate of implant-adherence failure. Regardless, the prospect of transparent, infection-fighting, bone cell growth-stimulating TiO2 nanotubes is a bright one, with potentially many other practical applications.