Modern dental technology is taking off at a rapid pace. With huge advances, dental care is becoming better and more precise. This provides not only better oral health, but also better overall health to dental patients. One of the big advancements is in nanotechnology.
What is Nanotechnology?
The article Nanotechnology in Dentistry: Clinical Applications, Benefits, and Hazards defines nanotechnology as the study and application of particles whose molecular size lies in the range of 0 to 100 nanometers. One nanometer (nm) is one-billionth or 10 of a meter. Nanoparticles cannot be seen with the naked eye; they are much, much smaller than the width of human hair. Scientists and engineers are exploring exciting options with this new technology, from the medical and dental field to the materials and fabrics field.
Much work in nanotechnology is with carbon nanotubes (How Stuff Works). These are rolled sheets of carbon atoms. Depending on how the sheet is rolled, different properties are created. For instance, nanomaterial can be much stronger than steel while at the same time being much lighter. Nanoparticles can also be taken from the parent material.
With more, smaller particles, the material exemplifies the characteristics of the parent material. Sunscreen is one example of an everyday product with nanoparticles. Sunscreen used to rub on white, but now not so much. This is because many sunscreens now use nanoparticles of zinc oxide (what gave sunscreen its white color). But because the nanoparticles are so tiny, invisible to the naked eye, the sunscreen no longer goes on white.
Another type of nanotechnology is nanorobots. Nanorobots are beginning to be used in medicine and dentistry. Nanorobots are placed inside target tissues to respond to precise programs. In a similar vein, nano implantable devices are being used in various fields. The above article, Nanotechnology in Dentistry, describes some of these advancements as tissue regeneration materials, implantable devices, 9 implant coating materials, bioresorbable materials, tissue replacement materials, and diagnostic and therapeutic aids.
How Does This Affect Dentistry?
Nanotechnology is entering the field of dentistry in some amazing ways. Some of the areas are:
Nanorobotic Local Anesthetics – This technology is making great advances in the area of anesthesia in dentistry. This improvement will be geared towards patient comfort and creating less anxiety. It also helps after the procedure to reverse the effects of the anesthesia.
Dentin Hypersensitivity – This technology helps decrease sensitivity in dental areas. Toothpaste with nanoparticles can decrease sensitivity in patients. Dentifrobots – These nanorobots are created to clean residue in the mouth through mouthwash. They can also be deactivated if swallowed. They move at an intensely fast rate to keep the mouth clean. Diagnostics – Nanotechnology is appearing in a number of diagnostics to detect cancer cells. Nanomaterials – From restorative material to sealants to adhesives and composites, nanotechnology is making improvements with materials. These are stronger, smoother and better than past materials. Some other areas where nanotechnology is making advances in modern dentistry are in orthodontics, tissue regeneration, and artificial teeth. Concerns As with any new technology, concerns often come with it. One concern of nanotechnology in dentistry is how the particles will react with other parts of the body if it is absorbed. For instance, an article in Science discusses the benefits of plaque-fighting nanoparticles. They have been shown effective in cleaning the teeth by removing bacteria. However, concern exists that they may remove good bacteria in other parts of the body. Dentistry is Entering the Nano Age Whether these advances in dentistry begin to appear in the dentist office or in our toothpaste and mouthwash, we will be seeing this technology coming into play one way or another. With new discoveries and applications in nanotechnology, our world is on the way to see many advances, in dental technology and more.