There is no getting around it! Dental implants have taken the dental industry by a storm, and they have quickly become the most popular tooth replacement option among the dentists and patients alike. There is no doubt that implant dentistry has come a long way since the day dental implants were first introduced, and this industry will continue to grow and evolve. According to an estimate, the global dental implant market is expected to exceed $4.4 billion by 2020.
Dental implants have become extremely popular in comparison to other options, as they offer an esthetic, reliable and durable tooth replacement option, which feels, looks and functions just like the natural teeth. Despite the excellent success rate of dental implants, there is still a long way to go! If we look at the other side of the picture, many patients avoid treatment with dental implants, or they are forced to seek alternative, short-term solutions, owing to the high cost of treatment with dental implants. Furthermore, not every patient is a suitable candidate for getting implants. In addition to having perfect oral and physical health, there must be sufficient volume and thickness jawbone available to firmly anchor the implants.
So, how will the latest technology offer improvements in dental implantology? It will safe to say that the future of implant dentistry is safe, and newer technologies will be introduced which make tooth replacement with implants an even more comfortable, convenient and safer procedure.
What the Future Holds in Store for Us?
Let’s take a look at how contemporary dental implant technology will benefit the patients and dentists in the future:
Contemporary Implant Materials
Up till now, the most commonly used material for the fabrication of dental implants is the titanium alloys, owing to their exceptional durability and safety for use in the oral cavity. Despite this, titanium implants also have certain drawbacks. Although rare, there are a few cases where the implant fails to integrate with the surrounding jawbone. Furthermore, a greyish collar of the implants can be seen over the oral soft tissues at the junction of the implant and the abutments. This may be a cosmetic concern for many patients.
Keeping this in view, research is now being conducted to develop alternative implant materials. Scientists have made significant headway in the use of zirconia for fabricating implants. Although not as durable as titanium, but zirconia is sufficiently strong. More importantly, it looks just like natural teeth. Another benefit of the zirconia implants is that they can be fabricated in a single piece, in contrast to the titanium implants, which are only available as a two-piece system. Many dentists have already started using titanium implants clinically, but their long-term success rate is still not known.
One of the most significant drawbacks of currently available implants systems is that they lack a cushioning system, like the periodontal ligament in the natural teeth. Therefore, all the forces exerted on the implants are directly transferred to the underlying jawbone. This can lead to jawbone fracture if a dampening mechanism is not available. Fortunately, Romanian scientists have developed a titanium implant which has been specifically designed to have excellent flexibility, so that it can simulate the physiologic longitudinal and lateral mobility of the implant, thereby offering a significant cushioning effect . Although this research has already been patented a few years earlier, we can only expect this technology to be clinically implemented in the years to come.
Improved Bone Graft
Extensive research is being carried out to develop novel bone grafting materials which are not only unable to support the implant efficiently, but they are also flexible enough to simulate physiological movement. Furthermore, currently patients have to wait for many months before the surgical site heals after a bone graft procedure, and they get implants.
Recently, a porcine collagen-based membrane has been prepared for guided tissue regeneration of dental tissues, which efficiently speeds up the healing process, and significantly reduces the waiting time for patients. The unique feature about this membrane is that it integrates and ossifies together with the surrounding bone during the resorption process following tooth loss. Naturally, when such technology will be implemented in the future, it will result in significantly reduced healing times, thereby allowing earlier implant loading.
Robot-Assisted Implant Surgery
The day is not far when robot-assisted implant surgery will be commonly used by dentists worldwide. In fact, a robotically assisted surgical system has recently been used in China, which was able to install two implants in a woman, by following a set of pre-determined commands. Although the procedure was supervised by dentists, they did not actively participate in the surgical procedure. Another robotic system called Yomi, actually controls the direction and angulation of the drill, thereby ensuring that the implant is inserted at the ideal location, angle, and depth inside the bone.
3D Printing Technology
With advancement in digital technology, dentists are now utilizing the CAD-CAM and 3D printing technology to fabricate dental implant prostheses at the dental chairside. Similarly, implant restoration guides are also fabricated quickly with the 3D printing technology, which aide the dentist in ensuring the optimal position, angulation, and depth of the implants. Up till now, scientists have not been able to fabricate dental implants using the 3D printing technology. However, the day is not far when dental implants would be digitally fabricated at the dental chairside using the CAD-CAM technology, thereby further reducing the time required for getting implants.
Not only this, but a highly elastic 3D-printed bone has also been developed, which is prepared from a combination of bioactive materials and polymers. A unique feature of this bone is that it can be placed inside the surgical area while it is still wet. Furthermore, owing to its excellent flexibility, it allows quicker ingress of blood vessels in the surgical site, thereby minimizing inflammation and reducing the healing period.
The list of technological advancements in implant dentistry to become clinically available in 2020 is virtually endless. But one thing is certain; future advancement in implant dentistry will not only offer convenience and shorter healing times to patients, but it will also streamline the process and minimize the time required by dentists in planning and treatment. 2020 is just around the corner. So, are you ready for the changes coming your way?
 Ganbold, Boldbayar, et al. “Osteoclastogenesis Behavior of Zirconia for Dental Implant.” Materials 12.5 (2019): 732.