Most of the U.S. denture-wearing population suffer frequent fungal infections that cause inflammation, redness and swelling in the mouth. These infections are called denture-related stomatitis. Researchers from University at Buffalo have turned to 3-D printers, using the machines to build dentures filled with microscopic capsules that periodically release Amphotericin B, an antifungal medication, in order to better treat these infections. A study found that the drug-filled dentures can reduce fungal growth and can also help prevent infection while the dentures are in use.

Benefits of the 3-D Printing System

The major impact on the innovative 3-D printing system is its potential impact on saving cost and time. It also allows clinicians to rapidly create customized dentures chair-side, which is a vast improvement over conventional manufacturing that can vary from a few days to a few weeks. Applications from this research could also be applied to various other clinical therapies, including splints, stents, casts and prosthesis. This antifungal application could especially work in favor of those highly susceptible to infection, such as the elderly, hospitalized or disabled patients.

Growth of Dental Biomaterials Market

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

Determining Strength of Dentures

UB researchers printed their dentures with the current go-to material for denture fabrication, acrylamide. The study mainly focused on determining if these dentures maintained the strength of conventional dentures and if the material could effectively release antifungal medication. Researchers tested the strength of the teeth by using a flexural strength testing machine to bend the dentures and discover their breaking points. They used a conventional lab-fabricated denture as a control. Although, the flexural strength of the 3-D printed dentures was 35 percent less than that of a conventional pair, the printed teeth never fractured.

Printing Process & Results

Researchers filled the antifungal agent into biodegradable, permeable microspheres to examine the release of medication in the printed dentures. The microspheres protect the drug during the heat printing process, and allow the release of medication as they gradually degrade. Their investigation involved the development of an innovative form of acrylamide designed to carry antifungal payloads, and a novel syringe pump system to combine the dental polymer and microspheres during the printing process. The dentures were tested with one, five and 10 layers of material to learn if additional layers would allow the dentures to hold more medication. The result of this was that the sets with five and 10 layers were not effective at dispensing the medication. For the single layer, release was not hindered and fungal growth was successfully reduced.

The Future of 3-D Printed Dentures

Future research will focus on the mechanical strength of 3-D printed dentures with glass fibers and carbon nanotubes, and denture relining. So that the readjustment of dentures maintain proper fit.

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