The Importance of Titanium in Medical Applications

Titanium Processing Center
www.titaniumprocessingcenter.com

Metal being used in biomedical applications consists of some very specific qualities. Any time foreign material is introduced into the human body, it can create potential health risks later on. The metal in question, then, cannot be toxic in any way, must have good strength to weight ratios, and display high corrosion resistance. Titanium fits all these qualifications, which is why it is the most common metal used in biomedical and dental applications.

Medical implants, in particular, must be reliable and strong – able to last for years – because removal or replacement down the road can cause even more problems for the patient. The goal is to use materials that will last on the first try, so that the body will accept the new addition and the patient can, ideally, forget that it’s there.

What Makes Titanium Ideal for Medical Applications?

Titanium is a completely inert metal and immune to the types of body fluids that could cause corrosion on the implants. It is generally considered to be wholly bio-compatible. Titanium offers more than just corrosion resistance, though, and includes other important characteristics, such as:

  • Low electronic conductivity
  • Predictable thermodynamic state
  • Low ion-formation tendency
  • High strength to weigh ratio
  • Fracture resistant
  • Tensile strength ratio

The most important characteristic, though, is simple biocompatibility. Titanium’s high compatibility with the body is a result of the oxides that form on the surface. This is more common on commercially pure titanium, but it can appear on the alloys as well. This oxide layer is inert and only slightly negatively charged at physiological pH.

This means that osseointegration (the ability of bone to connect with the implant) is very high and human or animal cells can more easily attach and proliferate on the surface.

Commercially Pure or Alloyed Titanium?

Commercially pure titanium is generally considered the best biocompatible metal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best choice for every application. In some applications, an alloy may be a better choice. However, some alloys could release vanadium and aluminum into the body, which could be toxic, so the types of alloys are limited to those that won’t create that problem. This includes:

  • Ti-6Al-7Nb
  • Ti-13Nb-13Zr
  • Ti-12Mo-6Zr
  • Ti-6Al-4V ELI

Uses in Medicine

Of those choices, Ti-6Al-4V ELI, is the main alloy used for medical applications. The alloy has some aluminum and vanadium in it, but is considered safe for implants.

Titanium Knee Joints

Titanium is used to replace failed hard tissues, and is the most common metal used on hip joints, knee joints, bone plates, cardiac valve prostheses, pace makers, bone screws, nails, and other similar applications.

Surgical instruments – Due to its weight, strength, and corrosion resistance, titanium is also an effective choice for surgical instruments. It is able to withstand sterilization over and over again, and since it is an inert metal, it can be safely used in the human body. And, since it’s non-magnetic, it can even be used near other implanted electronic devices.

Uses in Dentistry

Titanium has also changed a lot of things in the dental industry, and now it is used in implants, crowns, bridges, and over dentures. Most commonly, though, it is used as the “root” of an implant. It is introduced into the jaw bone and then given time for the biological material around it to bond to the surface. This leads to a very strong and reliable replacement tooth.

Titanium Replacement Tooth

Commercially pure titanium is generally the choice for many dental applications, but Ti-6Al-4V and Ti-6Al-4V ELI are often used for implants because they offer a much higher fracture resistance.

Understanding the Importance of Titanium

Over the years, the medical applications of titanium have continued to grow. Every year, titanium produces successful outcomes in hundreds of thousands of clinical implants. Going forward, researchers will continue to develop new applications and uses for this metal and device the products that will last for years (or decades) and help patients resume their normal lifestyles.

For more information on Titanium Processing Center visit www.titaniumprocessingcenter.com.

Titanium Processing Center (Corporate)
51513 Industrial Road
New Baltimore, Michigan 48047
Toll-free: 888.771.9449    |    Phone: 586.716.7555    |    Fax: 586.716.8430 

Titanium Processing Center Texas Group
8601 Fawn Trail Bldg. #2
Conroe, Texas 77385
Phone: 936-271-7773    |    Fax: 936-271-7783