3D printing is often talked about these days as, essentially, the Replicator from Star Trek: The Next Generation, except for, well, cheap plastic crap. Still, for every twee maker turning out farting gnomes, there’s a serious advancement in how the technology is used in the medical field. Like, for example, these 3D printed teeth that not only replace old ones, but help kill the bacteria that rot out your teeth in the first place.
Even if they don’t, it’s not ruling out the ability to create temporary tools out of this resin; astronauts, for example, might get a custom-crafted mouthguard that they can use to clean their mouths without brushing their teeth. Besides, they’re mouth bugs.
That said, though, there are helpful bacteria you want in your mouth, and these teeth can kill those, too. As a result the material is still in the prototyping stage, although researchers are hopefully they’ll soon be able to crack that issue. They deserve all the resin they can get.
How do these teeth crunch bacteria? It’s all in the materials. Researchers at the University of Groningen sat down to look at how to 3D print teeth, and realized as they were doing it that they could solve a lot of problems simply by making the teeth out of an anti-microbial resin. It’s as simple as adding some ammonium salts to the standard dental resin used to make teeth; just mix the two, add a little ultraviolet light, and print out some teeth.
The salts pack the teeth with positive ions; bacteria have negative charges to their outer cell walls. So, essentially, once bacteria touch these teeth, they lose that outer membrane and die instantly. It’s so powerful it can kill 99% of bacteria, but it poses absolutely no danger to human cells.