Currently, more than 80 nanotechnologies have been approved for a variety of medical applications, from treating cancer to bioimaging to tissue remodeling.
Now in a new study, researchers have shown that enzyme-containing nanoparticles can perform minor dental surgery and improve the outcome of dental braces for reorienting severely misaligned teeth into their proper position. Tests showed that rats treated with the nanoparticles before wearing braces exhibited better tooth alignment, reduced tooth relapse, faster recovery, and less pain compared to rats that underwent traditional surgery before braces.
The researchers, led by Avi Schroeder at Technion-Israel Institue of Technology, have published a paper on the new nanotechnology in a recent issue of ACS Nano.
“I think we are trying to change a 5000-year dogma of the way surgeries are performed,” Schroeder told Phys.org. “Specifically, the existing scalpel cannot distinguish between healthy and diseased tissue. However, enzymes can. Proteolytic enzymes are tuned to degrade specific tissues, without harming other healthy tissues. We believe that in the future surgeries must be more accurate, with less damage to healthy tissues.”
The researchers designed the new procedure specifically to address cases of severe misalignment of teeth, termed “malocclusion.” Currently, this condition is treated with minor yet often painful surgery to cut the collagen fibers that connect the teeth to the bone, followed by braces to move the teeth into their proper position. Besides a painful recovery period, about 40% of patients experience relapse and require a second cycle of treatment.
The nanotechnology treatment has the potential to greatly improve this treatment procedure by allowing the body’s own natural enzymes to break down the collagen fibers and for other natural biomolecules to rebuild the fibers when the teeth are correctly aligned with braces.