Each year, around ten million dental implants are inserted world-wide, a growing number since the world’s population continues to live ever longer, thus increasingly wearing down their teeth.
Traditionally, dental implants are made of titanium, a highly biocompatible material, meaning that it is easily becomes integrated in existing jaw bones. On top of the implant, a connector is deposited before the actual dental crown is constructed.
“Until now, this connector has posed an aesthetic challenge,” explains Ole Zoffmann Andersen, Research Manager at Elos Medtech, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of dental implant components.
“The reason is that can result in a metallic shine through the gum, and should the gum retract, the metal part may become directly visible. Of course, many people with dental implants dislike having to live with this,” explains Ole Zoffmann Andersen.
Elos Medtech operates both development and production facilities in Northern Zealand and has just initiated a new project in collaboration with researchers from DTU and Aarhus University to solve this problem.”At DTU, we have extensive expertise in working with coatings for metallic materials, including titanium.”Morten Jellesen, DTU Mechanical Engineering
Surface treatment expertise
During laboratory studies, a DTU research group was able to whiten the surface of titanium. The next step is to develop a surface so robust and durable that the whitening does not peel off, all the while complying with the many requirements for medical products.
“At DTU, we have extensive expertise in working with coatings for metallic materials, including titanium. The project also involves researchers from the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center at Aarhus University, who are experts within surface treatment using PVD processes, i.e. physical vapor deposition of thin films to contribute with specific surface-protection properties,” says Morten Jellesen, Senior Researcher at DTU Mechanical Engineering.
“We don’t yet know whether the strongest whitened titanium surface is created using one or the other process, or perhaps a mixture of both. This project is designed to determine that. Our team gathers strong expertise within surface treatment, so I’m convinced that we will achieve an excellent result.”
Dream come true
The Elos Medtech company is looking forward to being able to provide an aesthetically pleasing product in future to alleviate one of the major issues affecting dental implants.
“We realize that this project has set an ambitious goal. However, we believe that we will succeed in developing a robust technology to whiten dental implant titanium while complying with the regulatory requirements to be met before we’re allowed to sell the implants to our major customers in the world market,” says Ole Zoffmann Andersen.
Innovation Fund Denmark has invested EUR 1.3 million (DKK 10 million) in the project, which will be completed in 2022.