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Small Particles, Big Possibilities: Understanding the Implications of Nanoscience in the Dental Profession

March 3, 2020
by Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS, CEO and Founder of Cellerant Consulting


Innovation is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit, but it is a rare privilege to bear witness to truly pioneering technology.1 Nanodentistry –the application of nanotechnology to dentistry – is one such technology, and one that I am confident will have a monumental impact on our profession.

Nanotechnology is a field that deals with infinitesimally small objects. To better understand what that means, there are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A human hair is 100,000 nanometers in diameter. It’s about the smallest object that can be seen through a light microscope.

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Nanotechnology involves inventing materials, devices, and systems with physical, chemical, and biological properties that differ from those of large-scale structures.2

Dental research is in the process of investigating the use of nanopharmaceuticals to:

  • improve the effectiveness of endodontic therapy,
  • prevent dental caries,
  • integrate into dental implants to enhance osteoblast adhesion, and
  • more effectively treat periodontal disease.

The future will include the use of nanoparticles in applications such as:

  • developing screws for bone fixation,
  • direct pulp-capping procedures,
  • dentin regeneration,
  • enhanced bone regeneration, and
  • producing artificial mucosa!
Nobio's antibacterial nanocomposite and bonding material.

Nobio’s antibacterial nanocomposite and bonding material.

Some companies are already exploring how nanoparticles can be incorporated into dental products. Nanofill composites have been available in dentistry for more than a decade. Patent holders for the use of nanotechnology with composites include Kerr and the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

Nobio, from Israel, has received FDA clearance for its antibacterial nanocomposite and bonding material. The company’s nanoparticle will be integrated into composites, bonding agents, and potentially other materials to eliminate secondary caries by physically destroying bacteria that contact the surface of the tooth-restoration interface. This technology is non-luting, which means the antimicrobial agent should not lose its effect over time.

Under the umbrella of dental nanorobotics, imagine a once-a-day application of a mouthwash or toothpaste that delivers nanorobotic structures. These mechanical dentifrobots that are nearly invisible will actually be mobile. They move 1 to 10 microns per second, continually cleaning organic residues from supra- and subgingival surfaces while preventing the accumulation of calculus. These dentifrobots will be able to recognize and destroy pathogenic bacteria in plaque. Their activity can be stopped harmlessly in case they are swallowed.3,4

Nanodentistry also is implicated in the treatment of oral cancer. Tiny beads called nanoshells can produce heat through radiation, selectively destroying tumor cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

Ultimately, nanotechnology will have a huge role in nanomedicine and nanodentistry using nanoparticles to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, and to preserve and improve human health.
It may seem a little sci-fi, but this is a reality coming to a dental office near you, and sooner than you think.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Dental Economics.

References

  1. Ozak ST, Ozkan P. Nanotechnology and dentistry. Eur J Dent. 2013;7(1):145-151.
  2. Kong LX, Peng Z, Li SD, Bartold PM. Nanotechnology and its role in the management of periodontal diseases. Periodontal 2000. 2006;40:184-196. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0757.2005.00143.x.
  3. Saravana KR, Vijayalakshmi R. Nanotechnology in dentistry. Indian J Dent Res. 2006;17(2):62-65.
  4. Freitas RA Jr. Nanodentistry. J Am Dent Assoc. 2000;131(11):1559-1565.

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