Canadian researchers at the NRC Industrial Materials Institute (NRC-IMI) in Boucherville, Quebec have developed a porous titanium foam implant said to mimic a metallic version of bone. The titanium foam is made by mixing titanium powder with a polymer, and then adding foaming agents that expand the polymer when heated. Later, through a high-temperature heat treatment, the polymer is removed and the titanium particles are consolidated to provide mechanical strength to the porous structure. Porous titanium had previously been used in orthopaedic applications, but never for dental implants – although its properties are ideal for this purpose. Louis-Philippe Lefebvre, a powder metallurgy researcher at NRC-IMI, added: `The rough surface creates friction between the implant and the bone, and also allows bone growth into the pores to help fix the implant in place.` Among its potential benefits, titanium foam could make dental implants less invasive. Lefebvre explained that in difficult cases, implantation requires a bone graft. He said: `With better friction, you can insert smaller implants into less bone so patients may not need bone graft surgery.`
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