Published On: Mon, May 21st, 2018

Researchers Build 3D-Printed Dentures to Deliver Infection-Fighting Drugs

Researchers at the University of Buffalo have created 3D-printed dentures that are filled with microscopic capsules that periodically release antifungal medication. About two-thirds of denture-wearers in the U.S. suffer from frequent fungal infections that cause redness, inflammation and swelling in the mouth. Researchers hope the 3D-printed dentures will serve as a solution to this problem.

A study describing the work was published in Materials Today Communications, and found that the drug-filled dentures were effective at reducing fungal growth.

photo dozenist

Praveen Arany, DDS, PhD, senior author of the study, said, “The major impact of this innovative 3-D printing system is its potential impact on saving cost and time.”

The technology also allows clinicians to create customized dentures quickly. The conventional process can take days or weeks, depending on the client’s needs.

Arany says the research can be applied to other clinical therapies, including stents, splints, prosthesis and casts. He notes that the antifungal application could prove to be “invaluable among those highly susceptible to infection, such as the elderly, hospitalized or disabled patients.”

The researchers printed the dentures with acrylamide, which is the industry standard for denture fabrication. The goal of the study was to determine if the dentures could maintain the strength of conventional dentures and effectively release the medication.

A flexural strength testing machine was used to test the strength of the dentures and discover their breaking points. The researchers used lab-fabricated dentures as a control. The flexural strength of the 3-D printed was 35% less than the conventional pair, but they never fractured.

When testing the release of the medication, the researchers filled permeable microspheres with antifungal medication. The microspheres protected the medication from the heat printing process and also allowed the release of the medication as they degrade.

An innovative form of acrylamide was created to carry the antifungal medication.

The 3-D printed dentures were tested with one, five or and ten layers of material. The goal was to determine if additional layers allowed for more medication to be stored. The sets with five and ten layers of material were not as effective at dispensing the medication.

In the future, researchers hope to focus on reinforcing the strength of 3-D printed dentures with carbon nanotubes and glass fibers. They also hope to improve denture relining, which is the process of readjusting dentures to maintain a proper fit.

The research may help lower the cost of denture relining, which can cost patients between $300 and $500.

3-D printing is quickly gaining ground in the dental industry. Second-year dental students at USC now learn how to use 3-D printers to create partial and complete dentures. The move has positioned the school as one of the first to incorporate 3-D printing technology as part of the curriculum and has also sparked interest in prosthodontics.

Classes that once had 20 students now swell to over 100.

Tae Kim, associated professor of clinical dentistry at USC, believes that 3-D technology will become a standard within the next decade, especially as the printers become more affordable and advanced.

Author: Jacob Maslow

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