The medical sector benefits from many properties of ceramics, such as inertness, non-toxicity, hardness, high compressive strength, low friction coefficient, wear and chemical resistance, sterile nature, ability to be manufactured with various degrees of porosity, very good aesthetics, and durability. Their brittleness is being mitigated by the introduction of ceramic composites and nanostructured materials, and by processing, for example through hot isostatic pressing. Ceramic coatings are also considered in those cases when there is a need to rely on the substrate’s mechanical strength and toughness.
Ceramics for the human body are called bioceramics. are primarily used for medical implants, either in the form of bulk components or as coatings or fillers. Orthopedic procedures that involve the surgical installment of these implants are aimed at replacing hip, knee, joint, cranio-maxillofacial and spinal hard tissues and are becoming very popular as the world’s population continues to age.
Another relevant application of ceramic materials is represented by dental ceramics, which include orthodontic devices (e.g., braces), prostheses (e.g., crowns, bridges) and implants (e.g., all-ceramic root implants). Because they can be made to match the natural color of the tooth, ceramic materials give better results from the standpoint of aesthetics, compared with traditional metal products. With respect to dental implants, ceramic materials offer better osseointegration than titanium and are being engineered to prevent infection and deterioration, particularly through the use of nanomaterials.
Instruments and tools
There are several other important applications of ceramics in medical instruments and tools, including tissue engineering scaffolds; medical pumps; blood shear valves for hematology testing; drug delivery devices; piezoelectric components for medical tools and instruments; and ceramic-to-metal assemblies for imaging equipment. Also, ceramic particles and microspheres are becoming popular for cancer radiotherapy and other targeted therapies.