Nanotechnology could redefine oral surgery

07 March 2018 Nanotechnology

The American Chemical Society has reported on a pre-clinical study that shows potential reduction of pain and recovery time, following oral surgery, with the aid of specialized nanotechnology.

How does nanotechnology work?

Nanotechnology is the branch of technology that deals with dimensions and tolerances of less than 100 nanometres, especially the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules. In dentistry, nanotechnology is anticipated to provide advances and innovations in oral health-related diagnostic and therapeutic methods.

In the United States, for instance, 5 million people undergo orthodontic procedures every year – according to the American Association of Orthodontists. In some cases, teeth are misaligned to such an extent that surgery is required to cut collagen fibers under the gums before braces are put on the teeth. But patients often choose not to undergo the procedure because it’s invasive and can be painful.

Scientists recently have turned to nanotechnologies to target therapeutics to specific locations. For example, previous studies have shown some success in using liposomes – which are empty nanoscale vesicles – for drug delivery. Collagenase enzymes could potentially remodel the fibers connecting teeth to bone in the mouth without using a scalpel, but so far, delivering enzymes with liposomes has been challenging.

The future of oral surgery

A team of researchers wanted to develop liposomes that could deliver collagenase enzymes to perform targeted nanosurgery in the mouth. They developed liposomal nanoparticles that contained collagenase and performed tests with them in rats. When the liposomes were placed under the gums, the collagenase diffused out of the particles and was activated by calcium naturally found in the mouth. The collagenase weakened the collagen fibers, making it easier to shift the teeth afterward with braces.

Compared to conventional surgery, the collagenase treatment helped move the teeth three times faster. All of the rats lost some weight after the surgery, just as humans typically do. However, unlike the other rats, the ones treated with collagenase quickly rebounded to their normal healthy weight, which the researchers say suggests they were not in pain.

Nanoparticles in dental materials

Nanoparticles are present in nature and are used in many products of daily life. They are also embedded into dental products to improve material properties and have become a matter of concern due to safety aspects. The release of nanoparticles from dental materials and potential exposure in the dental environment call for risk assessment.

The FDI Science Committee is currently working on the topic and will present a policy statement for adoption at the 2018 World Dental Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The statement on nanoparticles in dental practice covers the effects of nanoparticles in and from dental materials on the health of patients, dental personnel, and the environment. It is based on scientific research submitted to the International Dental Journal, currently in press and to be published later in 2018.

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