Dutch researchers from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, have created an antimicrobial plastic material for use in 3D-printed replacement teeth, crowns, veneers and orthodontic devices. The new material kills 99% of oral germs and bacteria – before you brush and floss your teeth.
The team of researchers conducted research and development of a new antimicrobial composite polymers because dental implant related infections posed a major health risk world-wide.
This type of infection is the leading cause of the failure of implanted dental devices. For example, dental restorations that are damaged by bacterial infiltration can result in secondary cavities beneath the restoration. It is estimated that over 20 billion dollars are spent annually in the United States by dental patients – to replace composite resin restorations that have failed for this reason.
Professor Andreas Hermann and his team added antimicrobial ammonium salts to existing dental resin polymers. The positive charge in these salts disrupted the negatively-charged cell lining or membrane of the bacteria. This caused the bacterial cells to rupture and die.
And while the new material can kill bacteria on contact, it is harmless to human cells.
To test the antimicrobial properties of the new polymers, the research team coated 3D-printed dental objects in a mix of saliva and the Streptococcus mutans bactirium which causes tooth decay. Incredibly, the team found the polymers killed over 99% of the bacteria. In comparison, less than 1% were eliminated by a control sample with no added salts.
While further testing still needs to be carried out for long-term effects and compatibility with toothpaste, these new polymers are shaping up to be a game-changer in the general medical and dental industries.
Research paper: “3D-Printable Antimicrobial Composite Resins”, 10/2015, University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen 9713 AV, Groningen, The Netherlands.