Medical grade titanium is the most preferred metal not only for dental implants, but also for replacing many body parts such as hip joints, bone plates, maxio-facial prosthetics etc. Its unique properties such as biocompatibility, hardness, pliability, low weight, and extreme durability make titanium the most suitable metal in medical procedures.
However, with the widespread usage of titanium in surgery, questions have also risen of its safety. Small amounts of titanium may leak into the body from the implants or the replacement body parts. However, is it cause for concern? How much of leakage can you expect and how do you measure it? Read on to find out.
Measuring titanium levels in human blood
According to research conducted at the University of Oviedo in Spain, levels of titanium can be detected in human blood through a highly sensitive method. The research establishes a baseline for natural levels of titanium in untreated people and measures the levels in patients who have had titanium implants done. The concentration of titanium was found to be higher in patients with implants.
Although, titanium is a highly durable metal, it can still corrode resulting in debris. The increased concentrations of these metal implant debris can potentially result in biological side-effects such as renal lesions. These findings have been illustrated in a Springer journal, Analytical and Bio analytical Chemistry. Before any findings are revealed it is important to note the normal levels of titanium in the human blood and the levels in patients with implants. Only then can we identify whether the levels in patients with implants is abnormal or high.
In recent times, the use of titanium as a material of choice in implants has rapidly increased. But no one has tracked the effects once this metal corrodes and is released into the blood stream. Although, some analytical techniques were used initially, they were not suitable for most cases.
So what the research group did was collect blood samples from a small group of people consisting of 40 healthy individuals and 37 patients with titanium implants. To perform the analysis, the team chose the new method that is based on isotope dilution analysis and mass spectrometry. The observations were as expected. Healthy individuals exhibited lower levels of titanium and the patients displayed higher levels. For the various bone fixation devices, researchers were able to even highlight the differences in titanium levels. With the help of the study, the group was also able to track the flow of the metal, its distribution, and its accumulation in the body.
What levels could be termed as dangerous? The answer to this has yet not been found. Furthermore, the patients who were evaluated have not had dental implants done.
What was observed is that patients with implants are prone to allergies and hyper-sensitivity resulting from the titanium. But whether this is dangerous, is yet to be concluded. Currently, researchers are focused on studying the other types of implants such as tibia implants, femur implants, and spinal fusion implants. Dental implants are yet to be considered in the research.
Researchers are keen to understand how titanium is released from different metallic devices and how this can lead to biological consequences.
From how it looks so far, titanium dental implants are not much cause for concern. Patients who have had implants done are leading healthy, high quality lives which were not possible before the implants. So if you are considering implants, fear of leakage should not stop you from going ahead.
Alternatives to Titanium
Researchers are weighing the options of using zirconia as a replacement to titanium. Zirconia implants are also highly bio-compatible and exhibit minimum ion release. So even thoughit appears to be an excellent alternative to titanium, further research needs to be conducted. The results of the study are made publicly available in the Analytical and Bio analytical Chemistry journal so that prototypes can be developed and further research can be conducted to evaluate metal release.
The methodology is simple and so researchers expect isotope dilution analysis and mass spectrometry to be used on a routine basis since the results obtained are clear and accurate.