3D-printed teeth can kill 99% of bacteria
Wed 21 Oct 2015
Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have created a process that can manufacture 3D-printed teeth and braces which are actually good for your other teeth, and dental health in general.
3D-Printable Antimicrobial Composite Resins [paid PDF access] outlines the development of the new plastic resin used in the process, which involves embedding antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts inside extant dental resin polymers. Because the salts are positively charged, these disrupt negatively charged bacterial membranes, resulting in them bursting and dying. The mixture was then hardened with ultraviolet light.
The resin is capable of destroying 99% of bacteria, with the advantage that it doesn’t cause harm to humans. The researchers covered the samples with a mixture of saliva and streptococcus mutans (the bacterium that causes tooth decay) and found that the material had a sterilising effect on the bacteria.
While the results are highly positive, the researchers added that this was a prototype. Further testing is required to ensure that the material is tough enough to be used as an actual tooth, and also to assess whether the material is able to have the same effect on bacteria if utilised in products such as retainers or toothpaste.
The breakthrough doesn’t stop at teeth though; the researchers added that the prototype may also be suitable for orthopaedic applications such as spacers or other polymeric parts used in hip and knee arthroplasties. In addition, the innovation could be transferred to non-medical applications such as water purification, food packaging and children’s’ toys.
3D-printing is a technology of obvious interest in the dental trade; earlier this year a new process called Carbon3D was revealed which generates a 3D object by defining it out of a mass of formless material. The scientists behind it claimed to have been inspired by the early CGI effects used in James Cameron’s Terminator 2 (1992). Dental technology has been in the vanguard for local fabrication of CAD-styled dental appliances, but the new development from the Netherlands adds an unanticipated benefit.