Dental Implant Nanostructures Repel Bacteria and Improve Healing

Dentistry Today
Photo by Patrick Doll, KIT.


Photo by Patrick Doll, KIT.

Scientists with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Biomedical Microtechnology (BioMEMS) research group have developed a nanostructured surface designed to accelerate wound healing after dental implant procedures and protect implants against bacteria.

Modern dental implants comprise a titanium screw, a titanium connected abutment, and the visible dental crown. Titanium is the material of choice since it is biocompatible and ensures good osseointegration. However, inflammation may follow even after successful treatment. 

The main gateway for bacteria is the abutment. If the gum is not in perfect contact with the abutment, pockets may form, giving bacteria access to the jawbone, where it can cause inflammation. When this happens, the complete implant must be removed. 

The BioMEMS team aims to solve this problem with an optimized abutment. Grooves smaller than the width of a hair circulate the abutment and guide the cells responsible for wound healing into the right direction, accelerating wound healing.

“This system is our point of departure,” said researcher Patrick Doll, PhD. 

Further development will focus on more precise structuring of the grooves for better guiding of the cells and the search for an optimum nanosurface that bacteria cannot attach to. 

With an electron-beam lithography system, Doll produced columnar structures of 100 nm in diameter and 500 nm in height. These structures then were used to carry out adhesion experiments with typical test bacteria, including S aureus, E coli, and P aeruginosa. The structures also were varied constantly.

Depending on the distance and arrangement of the columns, bacteria adhesion was reduced, and biofilm formation was delayed. As a result, the recovering cells have more time to close the wound, an effect that otherwise would be achieved by antibiotics only.

“We think that our structural approach is very promising,” Doll said. 

Production of the silicon-based nanostructures is perfect and reproducible, said the researchers, who also developed new methods for using titanium. After the first phase in the lab, preclinical tests will follow soon, they added. Additional applications include bone plats, hearing implants, and artificial joints.

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