RESEARCH. Akademiliv provides a larger picture of the research on dental implants, due to the attention drawn recently to a project in which dogs are used as experimental animals.
Implants are increasingly common. Even if the treatment often works well, it is also common to have inflammation of the jaw, and each year 1400 Swedes have to have their implants removed. This is why research on a broad front, both at the University of Gothenburg and many other universities, is looking at how complications can be prevented and treated better.
Even if you do not have dental implants, you probably know someone who does. In Sweden alone, 34,000 people receive implants each year. Internationally, millions of people receive them each year. Often, older patients need to replace lost teeth with implants, but the treatment is also given to younger patients who have damaged their teeth in an accident or that have a hereditary lack of teeth.
Treatment is in two steps. First the titanium screw is surgically inserted into the jawbone, fusing with it over a few weeks. Then a crown or a bridge is attached to the screw. For most people, treatment leads to a much better quality of life where they once again are willing to laugh, socialize with others and go out to eat again.
Many people start having problems with inflammation a few years after the treatment, and after ten years, about 15 percent of patients have inflammation of the soft tissue, which can result the loss of the implant. Each year, about 1400 Swedes lose their implants, and afterwards it can be difficult to find enough solid bone in the jaw for new screws.
Primarily research on human subjects
There is a long list of research groups, both at the University of Gothenburg and other universities, conducting successful research on implants. The research is being conducted using many, complementary methods. The most common is conducting research on patients, where the researchers can compare the effectiveness of different types of implants or follow how the implant treatments function in the long term using such tools as patient registers.
New method for taking tissue samples from patients
In Gothenburg, research on implants is on a broad front, from population-based register research to molecular research on inflammation processes. Here, researchers are also constantly developing new ways of studying how to influence human behavior to reduce the number impacted by complications and how implants can be designed and modified to promote healing and reduce the risk of inflammation. For example, research groups at Sahlgrenska Academy have developed an entirely new method for taking smaller tissue samples at the point of the tooth implant without risking patient safety. The method has been published in scholarly journals and noted by research groups in other countries which would like to use it. The method has already reduced the number of animals needed for implant research. Another method developed for research on patients and not on animals can be used to study titanium components exposed to bacteria in research subjects.
The current project ongoing at the University of Gothenburg, where six dogs have received implants, is looking at new types of implants, which the researchers have good reason to believe can result in a much-improved ability to treat inflammation and reduce the risk of complications. This study has not been possible to conduct on human subjects, since it requires analysis of relatively large tissue samples from the jawbone.
Dental implants developed in Gothenburg
Dental implants and methods for surgically inserting them were developed in Gothenburg by Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark during the 1960s and 1970s. The basis for this medical innovation, that titanium has the ability to fuse with bone, was discovered by Brånemark by chance when studying blood circulation in the tibia of a rabbit and discovering that a titanium instrument had fused with the bone. This was the start of many years of work developing titanium screws and a well-functioning surgical method.