Denture-related fungal infections could be averted with 3D printed false teeth that release medication, an advance looking to find a place in a market worth over $66bn.
Denture-related stomatitis is a common condition that causes inflammation, redness and swelling in the mouth.
Now, researchers at University at Buffalo, the state university of New York, have used 3D printing to build dentures filled with microscopic capsules that periodically release Amphotericin B, an antifungal medication.
The study – published in Materials Today Communications – found that the drug-filled dentures can reduce fungal growth. Compared to current treatments – antiseptic mouthwashes, baking soda and microwave disinfection – the new development can prevent infection while the dentures are in use.
“The major impact of this innovative 3D printing system is its potential impact on saving cost and time,” said Praveen Arany, DDS, PhD, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor in the Department of Oral Biology in the UB School of Dental Medicine.
According to Arany, the technology will allow dentists to quickly create customised dentures compared to conventional manufacturing that can vary from days to weeks. Applications from this research could be applied to various other clinical therapies, including splints, stents, casts and prosthesis.
“The antifungal application could prove invaluable among those highly susceptible to infection, such as the elderly, hospitalised or disabled patients,” said Arany.
The dental biomaterials market – worth more than $66bn in 2015 – is expected to grow 14 per cent by 2020. A large part of the industry is focused on dental polymers, particularly the fabrication of dentures.
For their research, the UB researchers printed their dentures with acrylamide. The study sought to determine if these dentures maintained the strength of conventional dentures and if the material could effectively release antifungal medication.
To test the strength of the teeth, researchers used a flexural strength testing machine to bend the dentures and discover their breaking points. A conventional lab-fabricated denture was used as a control. Although the flexural strength of the 3D printed dentures was 35 per cent less than that of the conventional pair, the printed teeth did not fracture.
To examine the release of medication in the printed teeth, the team filled the antifungal agent into biodegradable, permeable microspheres. The microspheres protect the drug during the heat printing process and allow the release of medication as they gradually degrade.
The investigation involved the development of a form of acrylamide designed to carry antifungal payloads, and a syringe pump system to combine the dental polymer and microspheres during the printing process.
The false teeth were tested with one, five and 10 layers of material to ascertain if additional layers would allow the dentures to hold more medication. The researchers found the sets with five and 10 layers were impermeable and were not effective at dispensing the medication. Release was not hindered in the more porous single layer, and fungal growth was successfully reduced.
Future research aims to reinforce the mechanical strength of 3D printed dentures with glass fibres and carbon nanotubes and focus on denture relining to ensure that dentures fit properly.