When we think about our teeth, we usually think about mundane things like brushing, flossing, cavities and going to the dentist. However, advancements in dentistry have led to some pretty remarkable discoveries over the last decade. Imagine if your teeth could help you see. If diamonds implanted in your teeth could facilitate bone growth in your jaw.
All this and more is now becoming possible.
Teeth Enable Blind Man To See
Take the case of 43-year-old Ian Tibbets of Telford, Shropshire, who lost his sight 16 years ago when a piece of metal flew out of his oven and ripped his cornea in six areas. Due to further complications, he went blind in his right eye and saw only blurred shapes in his left. In fact, he had never clearly seen the adorable faces of his four-year-old twin boys… he distinguished them by the sound of their voices. He had tried other surgeries that had failed and was getting desperate to restore his sight.
A pioneering surgery changed all that.
Tibbets agreed to be an early adopter for a surgery called Osteo-Odonto-Keratoprosthesis (OOKP) which uses a small section of an extracted patient’s tooth, places a hole in it for the lens and is then implanted under the eyelids where it is protectively covered with tissue. Because the tooth was Tibbet’s own, it minimizes the chances of rejection versus a plastic equivalent. It not only gave him back his vision, but his independence,as well.
This revolutionary eight-hour surgery was also performed in 2009. Martin Jones, a 42-year-old builder, lost his sight when a tub of hot aluminum exploded in his face at his construction job. He was burned over 37% of his body and had to wear a body stocking for 23 hours a day. His left eye was destroyed,but surgeons were able to save his right eye even though he couldn’t see through it. He had never seen his wife in the four years they were married, but after the procedure he was able to see just how wonderful and lovely she was.
“I have been so fortunate that my sight has been returned,” says Jones. “I find it such a simple pleasure being able to see what is going on in the world.”
Currently, the procedure can only be performed by one surgeon in Britain – Dr. Christopher Liu at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton and can only help patients who have irreversible cornea damage that can’t be corrected by a corneal implant. Although it took Dr. Liu five years to learn the procedure, there are U.S. surgeons currently being trained.
Diamonds Enhance Dental Implants
Dental implants have revolutionized the dental industry, providing a way to replace missing teeth that does no harm to abutting teeth. A dental implant creates an artificial tooth root out of titanium that is anchored into your jaw and topped by a crown. Many people have to have dental implants because they have lost their natural teeth due to bone loss, trauma or gum disease. Dentists now have it down to a science and can provide same day implants, instead of waiting months for your gums and bone to heal.
Researchers at UCLA have taken dental implants to a whole new level. They are using minuscule diamonds (much smaller than used in jewelry) to make dental implants more durable than ever before.
“Nanodiamonds as they are called.” are carbon-based particles that are only 4 – 5 nanometers in diameter.They are actually so small they can’t be seen by the human eye. Scientists at UCLA, in conjunction with collaborators in Japan, have discovered a way to use nanodiamonds to deliver proteins that facilitate bone growth and cartilage. Nanodiamonds can also be invaluable in combating a potentially debilitating disease “known as osteonecrosis in which bones” break down due to reduced blood flow.
For people with osteonecrosis or similar debilitating diseases, dental implants can fail due to bone loss in surrounding teeth that causes the implants to loosen. Nanodiamonds can be used to add proteins that promote bone growth and can be administered non-invasively either through injection or an oral rinse.
“Because they are useful for delivering such a broad range of therapies, nanodiamonds have the potential to impact several other facets of oral, maxillofacial and orthopedic surgery, as well as regenerative medicine,” says Dr. Dean Ho, co-author of the study.
Because osteonecrosis can be a side effect of chemotherapy, researchers decided to expand its application to see how effective nanodiamonds were in treating multiple forms of cancer.
Nanodiamonds are also being tested at UCLA as a delivery system to carry chemotherapy drugs directly into brain and breast tumors with greater efficiency and fewer side effects than current chemotherapy treatments.
Glioblastoma is one of the most lethal types of brain tumors that haven’t responded well to surgery, radiation or earlier forms of chemotherapy because of the protective blood vessels that surround the brain. Patients who currently have this type of tumor generally have a life expectancy of 1 ½ years. The chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin, when combined with nanodiamonds, form a substance called ND-DOX. When injected into rodents, ND-DOX has shown promise in terms of its ability to kill the brain tumor, and increase survival rates.
When nanodiamonds were tested in rodents with triple negative breast cancer, it was found to shrink the tumor size, without the side effects usually associated with other chemotherapy treatments. In this case, the nanodiamonds were binded to Epirubicin, a highly toxic chemotherapy drug often used in conjunction with other cancer drugs. When used by itself, all the mice injected with Epirubicin alone died. However, when Epirubicin was combined with nanodiamonds to create a lipid hybrid compound called NDLP, tumor growth decreased as well as some of the toxic side effects of chemotherapy.
New Technologies, Better Dentistry
New technologies and discoveries are changing the way dentists do their jobs every day. Although everything can’t be as amazing as allowing blind people to see or nanotechnology for dental implants, smaller advancements make it easier and safer for patients than ever before. The future promises technological inventions yet unimagined. Dentistry is far from mundane…it is alive with possibility.
[toggle title=”Featured images”]
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: 123rf.com
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: 123rf.com
Dr. Jeffrey Pass, DDS, has been in private practice since 1987 and emphasizes cosmetic, restorative, and implant dentistry. A graduate of NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Pass, practiced privately in Manhattan, NY prior to establishing South Florida Dental Care in 1993. He regularly attends continuing education classes and is a member of the American Dental Association, South Florida District Dental Association, South Broward Dental Society, and the Florida branch of The Seattle Study Club.