It is common for the tissue around a dental implant to become inflamed, which in the worst-case scenario leads to the removal of the implant. But can a coating of strontium around the implant be a way to prevent the problem? A new thesis has set out to answer this question.

A damaged tooth can be replaced with a titanium dental implant, but one in five patients suffer from an inflammation of the tissue around the implant, known as peri-implantitis.

The most common treatment is an operation to expose and clean the implant, which is expensive, time-consuming and can be painful for the patient. Thus, there is a great need to explore how infections linked to implants can be prevented.

Strontium has similar properties to calcium

Hatem Alshammari, who has just submitted his thesis at Malmö University, has explored what happens when a titanium implant is treated with a thin layer of strontium.

”Previously, there have been many experiments conducted with various antimicrobial agents around the implant, but there have been problems with the stability of the coating and the effect of the agents on the tissue. Strontium is an interesting element to take a closer look at as it naturally occurs in the body and has similar properties to calcium. Studies have shown that strontium promotes bone healing," he says.

The thesis consists of a systematic literature review and three different sub- studies conducted in a laboratory environment, that pursue the main question of how strontium affects different types of bacteria that are usually found in peri-implantitis.

Dual effect on the bacteria

Among other things, the research team tested treating titanium plates with different surfaces with a coating of strontium and then tried to grow bacteria on the surface.

”The sub-studies show that strontium has a dual effect on the bacteria. One effect of the substance is that it kills bacteria, but it also inhibits the growth of bacteria, which is very promising because it could mean that strontium has a preventive effect,” says Hatem Alshammari.

”Infections associated with titanium implants are not only a problem in dental care but in healthcare in general, for example in orthopaedic surgery. Our studies show that there is a need for more research on the effects of strontium and how it affects the tissue and bone.”

Text: Anna Dahlbeck & Selina-Marie Voss