At first glance, nanodentistry may seem more science fiction than fact, but with current advancements in science, technology, and medicine, it may very well be a reality in the not too distant future. The word “nano” is derived from the Greek word for dwarf.
When used with technology, it refers to the use of minute machinery that is capable of manipulating matter. Nanotechnology may be employed to assemble virtually any product with the use of atomic building blocks.
Nanotechnology, when applied to the field of dentistry, is referred to as nanodentistry. This in turn will prove essential in the maintenance of oral health and repair of oral lesions using nanomaterials, nanorobots, and engineering of novel diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.
Origin of Nanodentistry
At the turn of the 21st century, the term nanodentistry was coined by R.A. Freitas Jr. In his work, Freitas Jr. outlined how nanorobots may be used in the regeneration of dentition and orthodontics. Additionally, he outlined his vision for the use of nanobots and nanomaterials to create dental products such as dentifrices and futuristic dentifrobots. Therapeutic interventions in the field of nanodentistry, according to this vision, would include nano-surgery, nanodrugs, and a plethora other nanomaterials that would profoundly impact the field of clinical dentistry to significantly alter our contemporary views and understanding.
Nanomaterials in Dentistry
Many clinical dentistry applications exist in the nanomaterials domain. Possibilities include nano-impressions, nanoceramics, and nanocomposites. Nanotechnology is now being used with nanofillers to create impressions that more precisely reflect patients’ dental details. These nanofillers have superior hydrophilic characteristics, better flow, and less spacing at the dental margins compared to traditional fillers.
Ceramics are widely used in prosthodontics, where they are used to manufacture dentures and dental crowns. Although they provide a high level of strength and low electrical and thermal conductivity, they are quite brittle. Here is where nanotechnology can play a role. Nano-zirconia ceramic can be used to improve toughness and hardness, as well as confers better translucency and resistance to corrosion.
The esthetics and strength of composite materials are important considerations. Both are largely dependent on the size of filler particles. Traditionally improvement in one feature has come at the expense of the other. More often, esthetic properties are improved at the expense of strength.
However, nanocomposites are flexible materials in that they can be used to improve strength and esthetics using a variety of filler components: barium glass, discrete silica non-agglomerate nanoparticles, and pre-polymerized fillers. These materials all have superior characteristics compared to their traditional counterparts. Similarly, novel developments in this area include nanocomposite artificial teeth and the use of nanotechnology to create materials for nano-bone grafts.
Nanodrugs and Nano-Surgery
Periodontal disease may be treated with the help of nanoparticles loaded with drugs, such as those with antifungal or antibacterial properties. In the very near future, it may be possible to treat periodontal disease using nanotubules and hollow spheres as drug-delivery systems. The capabilities of nanoparticles in scientific studies to date appear very promising. One example has been observed where the acceleration of wound healing occurred in mice with burn wounds that were treated with nanoparticles containing curcumin.
Nano-solutions with dispersible and unique particles can serve as agents capable of bonding other substances or particles. In addition to being used in this capacity, nanotechnology may also be employed to induce anesthesia with the help of nanobots. This technology may prove superior to traditional means of inducing dental anesthesia in that it would be faster and needleless, and therefore less anxiety-inducing to the patient than conventional induction.
Surgery on a cellular level may be possible in the near future thanks to innovations such as nano-tweezers and nanoneedles, among others. Further applications of nanotechnology in surgery include nano-sized suturing needles with incorporated crystals that are made of stainless steel. These needles would be ideal for the necessary surgical incisions that would need to be made at the cellular level. This too may sound like science fiction, but it is a very real possibility given ongoing advancements in the world of nanotechnology.