Could You Get Your Medications Through Your Dental Implants?

Blood rich bone marrow in the jaw makes a good environment for the titanium screws that hold on dental implants to take hold. It may also be a good way to deliver medications that need to get into the bloodstream, according to researchers. 

A device that works just like regular dental implants and delivers medication for diabetics or chronic pain sufferers may be a possibility based on models done in animals. With an implant, bone grows into the titanium screw inserted into the jaw bone in a process called osseointegration, which makes the implanted tooth stable and durable. The same idea could be used to implant a permanent method of delivering medications that need to be administered continuously for best results, like insulin for diabetics and some types of pain drugs.

Why would a dental implant be better than taking drugs orally or injecting them?

Many patients who suffer from diabetes, which is what this dental implant research is primarily looking at, must take insulin regularly. There is no approved way to orally take insulin, so those with the disease must inject themselves regularly or use a type of pump that also must be placed into a new area of the skin after a few days to avoid irritation. 

Because there's no easy way to ingest the insulin, some patients with diabetes don't always adhere to their doctor's instructions for when and how often to take it. The dental implant idea would make it so that diabetes patients did not have to inject themselves regularly; they could just screw in or pop in a line to the medication through the tooth implant.

What would this type of implant look like?

No one is quite sure what the finished product would be. Some medications could possibly be placed in a chamber that could fit into the mouth, but the dental implant could also act as more of a pipeline where the medications could be plugged or screwed in and released continuously for a period of time. The advantage is that you would not have to inject the drugs, and they would get into the bloodstream more quickly.

Researchers found that in the dogs they worked with, insulin taken in through the dental implant decreased blood sugar values within 5 minutes and lasted up to 20 minutes, which is comparable to injections.

How would the delivery of drugs be controlled?

The initial studies just used a mechanical method of giving medication. But it's very likely that wireless controls could be integrated and connected to a patient's wireless device, so that there would be less need to think about the amount and schedule for delivery.

Other wearable technologies that impact health, like a contact lens that measures glucose in tears, are solar powered, and that might be a possibility with small drug delivery devices that could be integrated with dental implants. Solar energy could be used to power the implant so patients wouldn't need to carry around a battery pack, for example.

While the technology is being studied and improved, there is still a long way to go before dental implants can be used for drug delivery. Such devices would need to pass through U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing, for example. But the concept could lead to many ways that dental implants could benefit patients besides a bright smile.

For more information, about dental implants, contact Dental Services Of Rochester or a similar location.