Next Big Thing

Self-Cleaning, 3D Printed Teeth Dec 15, 2015

When you ask many people what their biggest fear is, many will answer, “going to the dentist!” There is something vulnerable and scary about letting someone in to scratch, drill and pull your teeth. A team of researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands is always looking for way to increase your dental health, while keeping you out of the dentist chair. Now, they hope that they will keep you out forever. They have developed new 3D printed teeth and braces that actually protect your teeth and your mouth!

Their 3D-printed teeth are made of an antimicrobial resin that is able to kill 99% of harmful bacteria in the mouth. This means that your teeth will basically be able to clean themselves.
Researchers tested their resin by coating it in a mixture of saliva and streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that causes tooth decay. They found that the material had a sterilizing effect on the bacteria, but that it has no negative effects on humans.

“[W]e have a prototype at hand that is suited for further testing in a clinical setting, including not only dental applications but also, for instance, orthopedic ones like spacers and other polymeric parts used in total hip or knee arthroplasties,” the researchers write in their paper. “Moreover, the approach to developing 3D printable antimicrobial polymers can easily be transferred to other non-medical application areas, such as food packaging, water purification, or even toys for children.”

“For clinical use we need to extend this [research], and investigate the compatibility with toothpaste,” says Andreas Herrmann, one of the researchers.
Despite the wide array of applications for their technology, the researchers remain most excited about its prospects as an antimicrobial dental implant. Because it is a resin, not a substance that is intended to be ingested, it will also has a shorter path to shelf.

“It’s a medical product with a foreseeable application in the near future, much less time than developing a new drug,” Andreas Herrmann said.