A team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry, led by Takahiro Ogawa, has culminated a decade of dental implant research with the development of cutting-edge technology. It ensures near-perfect osseointegration, faster healing times, and significantly reduced complications for patients.
A device blasting one minute of ultraviolet (UV) light treatment on titanium implants – done chairside immediately prior to an implant procedure – has recently come to market and holds opportunities for applications beyond dentistry.
Takahiro said, "We have entered a new era in dental implantology. This UV technology not only enhances the effectiveness of dental implants but also improves the quality of life for patients. The possibilities are limitless, and I am incredibly excited about the potential impact on oral and overall health."
Takahiro and colleagues in the Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology team identified a key obstacle in the advancement of dental implant science, which had stagnated for three decades: A layer of hydrocarbons naturally deposited on implant surfaces called titanium pellicle, hindering the integration process. This is also associated with significant post-op complications, with peri-implantitis (gum disease around implants) occurring in 35-40 per cent of patients.
In response, the team developed a method to remove these hydrocarbons via UV light, which took 48 hours in early trials. Researchers gradually reduced UV treatment times to 12 minutes but performing the procedure chair-side just before implant surgery only became feasible with their one-minute hydrocarbon removal breakthrough in late 2022.
The process is chronicled in an article published in the Journal of Functional Biomaterials.
The impact of this technology is profound. UV-treated implants exhibit nearly 100 per cent bone integration, doubling their anchoring capability and reducing bacterial susceptibility by 60 per cent compared to untreated control implants. This means faster healing, lower risk of complications, and increased suitability for a larger portion of the patient population, including ageing patients, smokers, and those with diabetes and osteoporosis, among other conditions.
A follow-up journal article in which Takahiro is the primary author, published on October 29 in Cells, demonstrates how one-minute UV treatment induces unprecedented action of gingival (gum) cells to seal the implants, limiting bacterial invasion and reducing incidents of peri-implantitis.
“Our goal is to eradicate peri-implantitis,” said Takahiro
Additionally, the technology allows for more versatile occlusion, eliminating the need for smaller implant crowns and reducing the number of required bridge implants.
Takahiro is energised by the potential use of UV-treated implants in the broader medical world.
Takahiro added, “Orthopedic implants like hip joint reconstruction and spine fixation show a high incidence of revision surgery and complications. I believe UV-treated implants will help mitigate them.”