High-Tech Teeth

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These dentures are 3D printed and stave off infections in the mouth.

Dentures that are custom-made while you sit in the dentist’s chair. And that fight infection while you’re wearing them.

That’s the promise of a new technology being developed by University at Buffalo researchers.

Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. denture-wearing population suffer frequent fungal infections that cause inflammation, redness and swelling in the mouth.

To better treat these infections, UB researchers have turned to 3D printers, using the machines to build dentures filled with microscopic capsules that periodically release an antifungal medication. 

Fast and effective

Unlike current treatment options like antiseptic mouthwashes, baking soda and microwave disinfection—all of which require the removal of dentures—the medication in these dentures can help prevent infection while the dentures are in use.

“The antifungal application could prove invaluable among those highly susceptible to infection, such as the elderly, hospitalized or disabled patients,” says Praveen Arany, an assistant professor in the Department of Oral Biology at the UB School of Dental Medicine.

Moreover, the 3D printing technology will allow clinicians to rapidly create customized dentures chair-side, a vast improvement over conventional manufacturing that can take days or even weeks.

Throughout the body

Applications from this research could one day appear in various clinical therapies in other fields, including splints, stents, casts and prostheses, says Arany, who also has an appointment in UB’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint program between the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The dental biomaterials market—worth more than $66 billion in 2015—is expected to grow 14 percent by 2020. A large part of the flourishing industry is focused on the fabrication of dentures.