According to lead researcher, Johanna Loberg, "Increasing the active surface at nano level and changing the conductivity of the implant allows us to affect the body's own biomechanics and speed up the healing. This would reduce the discomfort for patients and makes for a better quality of life during the healing process."
For over 40 years now, dental implants have been used to replace lost teeth. Per-Ingvar Branemark was the first researcher to discover that titanium was a very body-friendly substance and could be implanted into bone without risk of rejection. Titanium is covered with a thin layer of naturally formed oxide and it is this oxide’s properties that indicate how well the implant can fuse with bone.
With years of testing and refinement it became apparent that a rough surface was superior to a smooth one, and the surface of modern implants is often characterized by different levels of roughness. Anchoring the implant in the bone initiates a mechanical process in the bone tissue known as biomechanical stimulation, and this results in the formation of new bone. Since the roughness of the surface is essential for the formation of new bone, it is important to be able to measure and describe the surface appearance in detail. However, roughness is not the only property that affects healing.
Johanna Loberg has created a new method that describes the implant’s topography on a micrometer and nanometer scale and allows for theoretical estimations of anchoring in the bone by different surface topographies. This method can be employed during the development of new dental implants to optimize the properties relevant to increased bone formation and healing. She has also studied the oxide’s conductivity, and the results indicate that a slightly higher conductivity results in a better cell response and earlier deposition of minerals that are important for bone formation.
The results are in line with animal studies and clinical trials conducted by the commercial implant OsseoSpeed, which indicate a slightly higher level of conductivity for the oxide as well as an exchange between hydroxide and fluoride on the surface of the oxide. Implant surfaces that have a well-defined nanostructure have a larger active area and respond quickly to the deposition of bone forming minerals.