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December 27 2010

Titanium And Teeth An Unusual Combination

Dental implants are artificial teeth used in cosmetic dentistry, and modern-day implants are almost always placed inside the mandible, or jawbone, designed particularly to resemble teeth roots. Prior to this, implants might have taken the form of a framework that was specially constructed to lay on top of the mandible, set in place with screws.

Today’s dental implants tend to be made out of titanium, though ancient Mayan burial sites have yielded primitive implants made of seashells. And here lies an interesting story concerning dental implants that involves their construction these days. For titanium is preferred for modern implants simply because bones accept the material so well.

Generally, the body will reject any foreign object it finds in its midst, including foreign cells. This is why blood types have to match when performing blood transfusions, and why numerous other procedures, for example bone marrow and organ transplants, have such a high chance of failure. But in the situation of dental implants made out of titanium, bone tissue actually grows into it with no issues at all!

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It’s unknown why this is the case, but experiments utilizing zirconia, a ceramic material which is related to titanium, have proven just as successful. Few theories exist as to this kind of seemingly magical biocompatibility, but one generally accepted guess is that titanium and zirconia aren’t so much accepted by the body but are simply not rejected. There’s, however, no idea at all why titanium and zirconia should cause the body to, in effect, forget itself. And just as mysteriously, research has indicated that dental implants placed directly into extraction sockets particularly created for the purpose of dental restoration are much more effective than those put into healed bone.

But no matter the material of the dental implant, some fundamental criteria should be met to best ensure success, such as surgical skill and having enough healthy bone to work with in the first place.