Drug-infused 3D-printed dentures promise to bite back against infections

Thanks to researchers from the University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine, dentures might be about to get a whole lot smarter.

Around two-thirds of the U.S. population who wear dentures suffer from regular mouth infections, with symptoms including redness, inflammation, and swelling. Researchers from the University at Buffalo think they have come up with an innovative solution, however — and it can be applied to a range of prostheses and clinical devices.

Using 3D printing, they developed special dentures containing microscopic capsules that are able to carry out a controlled release of antifungal medication. These drugs are diffused to the wearer through a single porous layer. Unlike current denture disinfection treatments, this approach can be carried out while the dentures are being worn.

“3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing and there has been tremendous progress in various approaches including high resolution, rapid printing techniques, as well as broad range of printable materials — including polymers and metals,” Praveen Arany, assistant professor in the Department of Oral Biology, told Digital Trends. “This project has effectively repurposed routine prosthetic material, methyl methacrylate, for 3D printing. This material is standardly used for making clinical prosthetics, including dentures and artificial joints, that are processed in a lab that involves several laborious and costly steps. The new method described in this work effectively bypasses the need for lab fabrication and can be potentially done in the clinic more rapidly and in a cost-effective manner.”

The researchers on the project think their approach would be useful for creating smart dentures for elderly and disabled patients who are unable to easily clean their own mouthpieces. However, this isn’t just of interest to older folks. Arany said that the same approach could be used to create mouth guards and retainers, bone plates and splints, joint prostheses, and valves and stents that can also release a range of drugs or biological agents for therapy. This might include scenarios such as pain relief, drugs to prevent organ rejection or scarring, and more.

“In followup work, we have been able to address the mechanical strength issue and can now fabricate clinically acceptable prosthesis with properties comparable to routinely manufactured prosthesis,” Arany continued. “Ongoing work is adding significant novel functionalities to enable ‘smart’ — sense and respond — attributes.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Materials Today Communications.

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