New Sensors Help Monitor Bone Health Around Dental Implants

In a study published in the “IEEE Sensors Journal” on Sept. 25, 2020, scientists developed a sensor that can be integrated in dental implants to monitor bone growth. This avoids the need for multiple X-rays of the jaw.

Presently, dentists use X-rays to observe jaw health after a patient gets a dental implant. Dental X-rays require low doses of radiation, and we all know that undergoing too many X-rays isn’t good for human health. This new sensor, on the other hand, not only passively monitors bone growth but also reduces the frequency with which patients neet X-rays after receiving dental implants. This reduced need for X-rays is a main motivation for designing the sensor.

Professor Alireza Hassanzadeh and two graduate students, all from the Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, are the scientists behind this innovative creation. The sensor monitors bone growth by measuring the changes in capacitance. The group developed two designs: one for short-term monitoring and another for the long term.

These sensors were created using poly-ether-ether-ketone and titanium. Those materials are integrated into the dental implant through microfabrication techniques. The sensors consume very little energy, have a high information-processing rate and perform steadily. Additionally, the sensors do not need any batteries and usually start passively monitoring changes in the surrounding electrical field as soon as the dental implant has been embedded into the jaw.

Hassanzadeh explains that as the bone forms around the sensor and dental implant, the capacitance of the sensor changes. This indicates how, over a period of time, the surrounding bone growth changes. The changes noted in capacitance as a result of bone growth are then communicated to a reader device, which sends the measurements to a data logger through a wireless inductive link.

In the study, the scientists tested the sensors in the jaw bone and femur of a cow. Hassanzadeh states that their findings showed that the sensor’s capacitance value was directly affected by the amount of bone growth surrounding the dental implant.

Hassanzadeh also noted that the sensor needed to be optimized for different implant sizes and shapes and that clinical trials needed to be performed with different types of dental implant patients in order to gain additional data. He added that the research team planned to commercialize the sensor after it had received approval from the necessary authorities, including the FDA, and after additional clinical tests were carried out.

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