3-D teeth: The future of dentistry is here

February 04, 2016

Discover-how-3D-printing-is-reshaping-the-world-of-dentistry_2020_40103337_0_14099066_650.jpgThe dentistry world is under a technological revolution. From the onset of pain-free procedures like intraoral sandblasting to forward-thinking forms of affordable dental payments such as dental discount cards, the industry constantly focuses on promoting patient-centered care. Now, 3-D innovations are making their way into dentists offices, and as with most advanced tooth technology, these techniques are proving to be a huge success. Learn more about 3-D-printed teeth:

What are 3-D-printed teeth?
Researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have developed a 3-D-printed tooth made of antimicrobial composite resin, according to an article published in the journal Advanced Functional Medicine.

For such a scientific-sounding name, the invention is fairly straight-forward. With the help of a 3-D printer, the researchers created a plastic tooth. The material of the tooth contains positively charged antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts. These salts deflect negative charged membranes, killing the bacteria that infects teeth on contact. As ScienceAlert put it, the tooth "effectively cleans itself."

"The 3-D tooth's antimicrobial material killed 99 percent of bacteria."

This tooth could eventually serve as a replacement for other dental implants. By the end of its development stages, it should work like your normal tooth - allowing you to chew, smile and speak properly. However, the scientists must ensure the tooth does not react poorly with toothpaste or any other normal oral hygiene practices.

The effectiveness of 3-D teeth
The team from the Netherlands covered the 3-D tooth in saliva and Streptococcus mutans to evaluate its self-cleaning capabilities. According to the New Scientist, Streptococcus mutans ultimately cause tooth decay and are commonly found in the mouth. The researchers discovered that the 3-D tooth's antimicrobial material killed over 99 percent of the bacteria. Despite this infection-fighting power, the material didn't damage to the mouth.

When can I get 3-D teeth?
The research surrounding the 3-D antimicrobial tooth is still in its beginning stages. Though the study demonstrated its potential for aiding a clean, healthy smile, the tooth has not yet completed clinical trials. However, the innovation is developing relatively quickly compared to other dental health advancements.

"It's a medical product with a foreseeable application in the near future, much less time than developing a new drug," said lead author Andreas Hermann.

It's possible you'll have these type of teeth as options in your lifetime, and 3-D printing may even become commonplace in dentist offices.

Empty dental mouthguard tray.
Advanced 3-D printing may replace the typical dental impression method used to make mouthguards.

3-D printing in other elements of dentistry
The Washington Post noted that 3-D printing has been working its way into dentistry for some time. In March 2015, Stratasys released a 3-D printer designed specifically for dentistry. The printer creates gums, nerves and teeth not as implants but as life-like models for dental education.

Montana news source KTVM highlighted that dentists can use 3-D printing to create molds. Your dentist may take dental impressions to create teeth whitening trays, mouthguards and dentures, among other oral devices. During this common procedure, patients typically bite down into tray full of an impression material that often causes a gag reflex, according to Colgate. For obvious reasons, this traditional method can be uncomfortable. As KTVM explained, 3-D printing creates scans through a small camera. No goop. No gagging.The images are then sent to a lab, and the 3D printer creates the mold.

As a budding technology, 3-D printing is fast-growing and reshaping the world of dentistry. Since dental health constantly sees advancements, you may experience something new next time you schedule an appointment. Remember, you can always ask your dentist about any unfamiliar tools or procedures.

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