3D printing is gaining popularity with more companies as the technology continues to improve and the costs for printers becomes more reasonable. Companies have the ability to print a wide number of things. Now, scientists are taking 3D printing to another level. At the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, researchers have developed a process that can make 3D-printed teeth and braces which are actually beneficial to your other teeth and overall dental health.

The development of the new plastic resin used in the process is outlined in the publication, 3D-Printable Antimicrobial Composite Resins.  Essentially, the process involves the embedding of antimicrobial ammonium salts inside “dental resin polymers.” The salts are positively charged, and therefore disrupt bacterial membranes, which are negatively charged. The result is that the bacteria burst and die. Ultraviolet light is then used to harden the resin mixture.

To test their research, the scientists covered the 3D printed samples with a mixture of saliva and the bacterium responsible for causing tooth decay. The researchers found that the resin material sterilized the bacteria.

The antimicrobial composite resin can destroy 99% of bacteria, and it does not harm humans or cause damage to other teeth.

Researchers are certainly pleased with the promising research but are careful to note that the 3D printed material is just a prototype. The material requires further testing to ensure it is durable enough to be used as an actual tooth in a human mouth. The material must also be tested to determine if it has the same bacteria-killing effect if used in products such as toothpaste and retainers.

This scientific breakthrough could be used for many things in addition to teeth. The material may be used in orthopedic implants and other parts used in knee and hip replacements. Additionally, the technology could have possible applications for food packaging, children’s toys and water purification.

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