Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have recently developed antimicrobial resins which enable them to 3D print teeth and other dental implants that kill Streptococcus mutans, the microbe that causes tooth decay.
To do this, chemistry professor Andreas Herrmann and his team combined antibacterial ammonium salts with standard dental resins. The positively charged salts disrupt the negatively charged bacterial membranes, killing the microbes.
They put the mix in a Formlabs Form 1 3D printer and printed a range of dental objects, from replacement teeth to orthodontic braces. To test the new material, they applied saliva and Streptococcus mutans to the samples.
They found that the material eliminated over 99 per cent of the bacteria, compared to less than 1 per cent for a control sample without the added salts. According to the researchers, such implants will not harm human cells.
Further tests still must be done, but this new technology could have a huge impact, especially for people in low-resource areas without access to dentists.