Lost a tooth? Soon your dentist could print you another – and it’ll help keep your mouth clean, too.
Getting fitted for a false tooth or other dental treatment tends to involve a mouthful of foul-tasting gunk and plaster casts. But now dentists are moving to high-tech digital scanning and 3D printing. That switch opens the door to more advanced materials that could improve your oral hygiene.
Andreas Herrmann of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and his colleagues have developed an antimicrobial plastic, allowing them to 3D print teeth that also kill bacteria. It’s an important issue, say the team, because bacterial damage to existing implants costs patients millions of dollars in the US alone.
The team embedded antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts inside existing dental resin polymers. The salts are positively charged and so disrupt the negatively charged bacterial membranes, causing them to burst and die. “The material can kill bacteria on contact, but on the other hand it’s not harmful to human cells,” says Hermann.