Losing teeth is a distressing experience, whether it’s through injury or disease. Although removable false teeth are a solution, millions of people have had their pearly white smiles restored with dental implants over the past few decades. This involves screwing a titanium fixture into the jaw to replace the root of the missing tooth, which then acts as an anchor for a replacement gnasher. Dentists use titanium because it can bind to the skin cells in the mouth, creating a tight seal for the new tooth. But infections and other gum problems can happen if this seal doesn’t form properly. Scientists have discovered that coating titanium with a naturally-produced chemical called platelet activating peptide attracts skin cells and helps them to settle into their new home. So far this has only been tested with cells grown in the lab, but it will hopefully lead to better implant materials in future.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.