With the advent of nanotechnology, an opportunity exists for the engineering of new dental implant materials. Metallic dental implants have been successfully used for decades, but they have shortcomings related to osseointegration and mechanical properties that do not match those of bone. Absent the development of an entirely new class of materials, faster osseointegration of currently available dental implants can be accomplished by various surface modifications. To date, there is no consensus regarding the preferred method(s) of implant surface modification, and further development will be required before the ideal implant surface can be created, let alone become available for clinical use. Current approaches can generally be categorized into three areas: ceramic coatings, surface functionalization, and patterning on the micro- to nanoscale. The distinctions among these are imprecise, as some or all of these approaches can be combined to improve in vivo implant performance. These surface improvements have resulted in durable implants with a high percentage of success and long-term function. Nanotechnology has provided another set of opportunities for the manipulation of implant surfaces in its capacity to mimic the surface topography formed by extracellular matrix components of natural tissue. The possibilities introduced by nanotechnology now permit the tailoring of implant chemistry and structure with an unprecedented degree of control. For the first time, tools are available that can be used to manipulate the physicochemical environment and monitor key cellular events at the molecular level. These new tools and capabilities will result in faster bone formation, reduced healing time, and rapid recovery to function.
Keywords: bone formation, coatings, dental implants, hydroxyapatite, nanotechnology, surface topography