According to the World Health Organization, over 26 percent of adults have untreated tooth decay, which is linked to many other health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and more. Based on what researchers in the Netherlands have done with 3D printing, that number could go way down.
3D printing of teeth and dentures is being introduced into more and more dental practices. But, the researchers from the University of Groningen have taken it further by discovering a way to introduce anti-bacterial ammonium salts into the standard resins used. When bacteria settle on teeth made in a 3D printer using this resin, they die. In tests, 99 percent of the bacteria were killed on the treated teeth, while only 1 percent died on untreated teeth. While it is an effective bacteria killer, it is not harmful to human cells.
How Can It Be Used?
The process is still being tested and improved, but the researchers feel that it could have immediate use in retainers, and they feel it will be available sooner than might be expected because it is a medical product and not a drug. Other researchers are looking into using similar methods with implants. More research needs to be done to see how effective it might be with fillings and crowns, and how it reacts with toothpaste, but it looks to be very promising for improving oral health.
And, the possibilities for this technology go beyond improving oral health. With further testing, it is possible it could be used to fight bacteria in hip or knee replacements, food packaging, or even children’s toys!
It will be awhile yet before this is available at your dentist’s office. In the meantime, regular brushing and flossing, combined with regular dental checkups, is the best way to fight decay-causing bacteria.