Dental researchers have created 3D printed teeth, specially designed to eliminate nasty germs and bacteria from your mouth.
This also raises the possibility of using more advanced materials that could also improve oral hygiene.
A team of researchers led by Andreas Herrmann from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have developed an antimicrobial plastic, which has led to 3D printed teeth that can also kill bacteria.
The team began working on this issue because bacterial damage to existing implants costs patients millions of dollars in the US alone.
How do 3D Printed Teeth Work?
Firstly, the team took antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts and put them inside existing dental resin polymers.
The reason for this is that these salts are positively charged; they disrupt the negatively charged bacterial membranes, causing them to burst and die.
Hermann told New Scientist: “The material can kill bacteria on contact, but on the other hand it’s not harmful to human cells.”
The team then put the mix into a 3D printer and printed a range of dental objects — such as replacement teeth and orthodontic braces — after hardening the mixture with ultraviolet light.
To test its antimicrobial properties, they coated samples of the 3D printed teeth in mix of saliva and Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that causes tooth decay.
Astonishingly, they found the material killed over 99 per cent of the bacteria, compared to less than 1 per cent for a control sample without the added salts.
The team intend to carry out further tests before we will see 3D printed teeth in our dental clinics, however. The samples were only left in the saliva and bacteria mix for six days, meaning the long term effects are not known.
Another reason for continuing testing, says Hermann: “For clinical use we need to extend this, and investigate the compatibility with toothpaste.”
Learn more: Advanced Functional Materials, DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201502384
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