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Innovations in Dental Implants Could Be Game-Changers

For many, dental implants have become the next best thing to real teeth. But there’s still room for improvement, and a researcher at Penn Dental Medicine has received funding to work on just that.

The popularity of dental implants has grown significantly in the past couple of decades. More than 5 million dental implant surgeries are performed every year in the United States. And this treatment option is continuing to grow across the planet.

The global dental implants market was valued at $4.15 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow to $6.95 billion by 2030. Reasons for this growth are thought to stem from myriad drivers: an increasing incidence of tooth loss, especially in an aging boomer population, high demand for esthetic dentistry, rise in healthcare spending, emerging technological advances, growing awareness of the importance of oral health, and increase in disposable income.1


But while dental implants enjoy a high success rate, about 5% to 10% of them fail within 10 years, and about 25% fail within 20 years. Bacterial infections leading to peri-implantitis, and shortfalls in osseointegration are said to be the main causes of implant failure. Additionally, implant survival over the long term is in question in patients lacking optimal oral health care or in those with a history of chronic periodontal diseases.2,3

To help combat these problems, the National Institutes of Health recently awarded Geelsu Hwang, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, with a 5-year grant, totaling $2.6 million, to tackle the problem through the development of smart technologies aimed at endowing implants with bacteria-fighting properties.2


According to Hwang, peri-implant infection has been shown to start with the accumulation of bacterial biofilms at the interface of the implant surface and the surrounding soft tissue. Hwang explained, “The lack of a good seal between the implant structure and the surrounding gum, compared to a natural tooth, means that the risk of peri-implant disease is quite high.”2

Hwang’s focus lies in developing what he calls an ambulatory photo-biomodulation therapy using a seamless oral motion-powered implant. Such a prosthetic will be able to prevent biofilm formation on implants as well as restorative surfaces, reducing cell inflammation and regenerating tissue. This, he believes, will minimize the likelihood of implant failure.4


The smart implant structure will involve a crown endowed with nanoparticles composed of an antibacterial chemical compound. Hwang and his team have been experimenting with barium titanate.

An abutment containing LEDs will be powered by piezoelectric material in the crown that converts biting pressure to electrical energy. The LEDs will deliver a daily dose of phototherapy to adjacent gingival tissue. The light emitted will likely be infrared — invisible to the human eye — with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.


  1. Fortune Business Insights. Medical Device/Dental Implants Market. 
  2. University of Pennsylvania Almanac. Geelsu Hwang: $2.6 million NIH Grant to Develop Next-Gen Dental Implant Technology.
  3. Froum S. Dental implants fail at a rate 10 times that of natural teeth in patients with treated chronic periodontitis: new study.
  4. Hwang G. Ongoing research projects.
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