Research has found that a new nanocoating for dental implants inhibits bacterial growth and reduces the formation of bacterial biofilm on the implant surface.

In the study, the research team, comprising scientists from the School of Biological Sciences, Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Engineering at the University of Plymouth, created a new approach using a combination of silver, titanium oxide and hydroxyapatite nanocoatings.

The application of the combination to the surface of titanium alloy implants successfully inhibited bacterial growth and reduced the formation of bacterial biofilm on the surface of the implants by 97.5%.

Not only did the combination result in the effective eradication of infection, but it also created a surface with anti-biofilm properties that supported successful integration into surrounding bone and accelerated bone healing.

Professor Christopher Tredwin, head of Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry, commented: ‘In this cross-faculty study, we have identified the means to protect dental implants against the most common cause of their failure. The potential of our work for increased patient comfort and satisfaction, and reduced costs, is great and we look forward to translating our findings into clinical practice.’

Nanoscience activity

The University of Plymouth was the first university in the UK to secure research council funding in nanoscience and this project is the latest in a long line of projects investigating nanotechnology and human health.

Nanoscience activity at the University of Plymouth is led by Professor Richard Handy, who has represented the UK on matters relating to the environmental safety and human health of nanomaterials at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

He commented: ‘As yet there are no nano-specific guidelines in dental or medical implant legislation and we are, with colleagues elsewhere, guiding the way in this area. The EU recognises that medical devices and implants must: perform as expected for its intended use, and be better than similar items in the market; be safe for the intended use or safer than an existing item, and; be biocompatible or have negligible toxicity.’

He added: ‘Our work has been about proving these criteria, which we have done in vitro. The next step would be to demonstrate the effectiveness of our discovery, perhaps with animal models and then human volunteers.’

Infection prevention

Dr Alexandros Besinis, lecturer in mechanical engineering at the School of Engineering, University of Plymouth, led the research team.

He commented: ‘Current strategies to render the surface of dental implants antibacterial with the aim to prevent infection and peri-implantitis development, include application of antimicrobial coatings loaded with antibiotics or chlorhexidine. However, such approaches are usually effective only in the short-term, and the use of chlorhexidine has also been reported to be toxic to human cells. The significance of our new study is that we have successfully applied a dual-layered silver-hydroxyapatite nanocoating to titanium alloy medical implants which helps to overcome these risks.’

The study has been published in the journal Nanotoxicology.