Anyone who has ever worn dentures knows how irritating they can be at times. Ill-fitted dentures can rub against the gums, causing swelling, inflammation and redness in the mouth.
Left untreated, these infections known as denture-related stomatitis, can cause a variety of different fungal infections. Now, researchers from the University at Buffalo have turned to 3-D printers to develop new dentures that will actively help to fight these infections.
A paper published in the Materials Today Communications Journal says researchers are creating dentures filled will tiny microscopic capsules that occasionally release an antifungal medication known as Amphotericin B.
With as many as two-thirds of the denture-wearing US population suffering frequent fungal infections, the latest development in technology could be a game-changer in treating problems typically associated with dentures. In most cases, people use a number of treatment options to clean their dentures. They range from antiseptic mouthwashes and baking soda, to denture cleansers and overnight soaking.
These methods can be effective, but they usually require the dentures to be taken out of the mouth in order to be cleaned. With the new 3-D dentures, people will be able to protect themselves while continuing to wear them.
Praveen Arany, the study’s senior author, said the new dentures could save people money in the long run.
“The major impact of this innovative 3-D printing system is its potential on saving cost and time,” he said in a statement.
While typical dentures can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to manufacture, the 3-D technology will allow clinicians to rapidly create customised and personal dentures almost immediately. There are also hopes it could be used further down the track for patients requiring splints, stents, casts and prosthetics.
“The antifungal application could prove invaluable among those highly susceptible to infection, such as the elderly, hospitalised or disabled patients,” Arany added.
Researchers printed a range of dentures using acrylamide, commonly used in most denture fabrication. It was important for researchers to determine whether the 3-D dentures maintained strength, while also releasing antifungal medication. Using machines, the dentures were bent to test their strength, and while they’re 35 per cent less flexible than the standard kind, the 3-D dentures never fractured.
At present, there are two kinds of dentures: Full dentures, used when all the teeth on the upper or lower jaw are missing, and part dentures, used when only some teeth are missing.
For many Baby Boomers and older citizens, it was once common practice to have natural teeth removed by dentists whenever there were problems. Many members of the older community have been living with dentures since their teenage years.
Further testing needs to be done on the 3-D dentures and there’s no word yet when they will be available for purchase.