A new frontier for regenerative dentistry

18 December 2018

A Professor of Periodontology at UQ’s School of Dentistry, Sašo Ivanovski is a clinician-scientist with a focus on the clinical and biological aspects of orofacial reconstruction and regeneration.

Periodontology or periodontics is a field of dentistry that specialises in the supporting structures of teeth and the treatment of gum disease.

His recently established research group at the Oral Health Centre in Herston, brings together some of the world’s leading researchers in the fields of periodontics, materials science, biology, and medical engineering. Together they are exploring tissue regeneration using three-dimensional (3D) printing technology.

Although 3D printing itself is not new, tissue engineering implants made using the technology have not yet reached clinical use.

“The regeneration of bone defects and orofacial tissues has been notoriously difficult due to past technological limitations, but advances in tissue engineering technology are pointing to a promising future,” Professor Ivanovski said.

“By taking advantage of the versatility of 3D printing, which allows for the production of fully customised shapes, we can print biodegradable implants to improve long-term patient health and wellbeing.”

Facial and dental disorders caused by trauma, tumours, chronic infections, tooth loss, or congenital conditions such as cleft lip and palate, have a major impact on a person’s quality of life, negatively affecting communication, function, and appearance. These conditions also place a significant burden on healthcare services.

For example, the gum disease periodontitis affects approximately 50 per cent of Australians over 40 years of age, with over 12 per cent of these cases being severe.

Periodontitis results in the gradual breakdown of the tissues that support the teeth, leading to impaired function and aesthetics, and sometimes to tooth loss.

Left untreated, this can result in significantly reduced masticatory function and aesthetic impairment. Due to their complex structure, there has previously been no predictable ways to regenerate the lost periodontal tissues.

“We are finding ways to repair this tissue damage using new 3D bio-printing technology to print periodontal tissue construct incorporating live cells,” Professor Ivanovski said.

“Our research will advance craniofacial and orodental regeneration and reconstruction, as well as contribute to the expansion of the field of regenerative medicine.

“The development of these world-leading innovations will have a real impact on patient outcomes and healthcare provision."

Words: Dani Nash