Dental implants are an excellent option to replace missing teeth. They’re durable; they look, feel and function like natural teeth; and they can last a lifetime. But, while dental implants are an excellent choice for many, in some instances, they can fail.
When implants fail, they have to be removed to prevent illness or infection in the blood.
But why do implants fail?
In some cases, they do not fully osseointegrate into the jaw bone, leaving the opportunity for bacteria to grow on the titanium surface of the implant “root.”
When this happens, infections can become chronic, and inflammation can develop in the surrounding tissue. These infections can be painful and, if left untreated, dangerous.
But, new research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has a new way to treat these infections and reduce the risk of implant failure.
The treatment is shocking – literally. It’s electrochemical therapy (ECT), and it can help antibiotics work better to reduce bacteria levels on titanium.
This new therapy is essential, as there is increasing resistance worldwide to antibiotic treatments. In some cases, particularly recurring infections, antimicrobial therapies simply stop working.
“If a tooth or dental implant continues to get infected, eventually the bacteria you’re trying to treat become resistant to the medication you’re using,” said Dr. Kevin Pollock, a Rockwall, Texas, oral surgeon.
As an oral surgeon, Pollock sees plenty of implants and knows what can cause complications and potential infections.
“In many cases, it’s simply not practicing good oral hygiene or smoking after the implant,” Pollock said.
Using electrochemical therapy can damage the microbe cell membrane, which means antibiotics can be more effective. This could mean that even bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics would be eradicated.
The treatment works by passing a mild electrical current through the metal-based implant. This damages the bacteria on the implant but does not hurt the surrounding tissue.
The research team hopes their research will change how infections are treated – and they don’t want to limit their project to just bacteria. The team is also focusing on how their ECT approach could be used to treat Candida albicans (C. Albicans), a common and harmful fungal infection that also affects dental implants.
Dental implants are just one frontier for ECT therapy; the Pittsburgh team believe that it could also benefit wounds and prevent delayed healing. But while dental implants are one new application for this technology, experts say it has other potential applications, such as in wound dressings.
Source: University of Pittsburgh. “A ‘shocking’ new way to treat infections: New research uses electrochemical approach to treat infections of metal-based implants.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2019.