Jaw-dropping: The 3D-printed dental plugs that could save implant patients money, time and pain

Researchers at the National Dental Centre Singapore have developed an enhanced bioresorbable 3D-printed dental plug which promotes bone growth in the jaw, reducing the chances of bone shrinkage after an extraction.
Researchers at the National Dental Centre Singapore have developed an enhanced bioresorbable 3D-printed dental plug which promotes bone growth in the jaw, reducing the chances of bone shrinkage after an extraction.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Patients requiring dental implants often have to open their wallets wide, as well as their mouths.

But a new treatment process developed by the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) could save them at least $2,000 - as well as a considerable amount of time and pain.

Researchers there have developed an enhanced bioresorbable 3D-printed dental plug which promotes bone growth in the jaw, reducing the chances of bone shrinkage after an extraction.

Currently, many patients requiring dental implants have to wait for three months for bone to grow in the tooth socket after extraction.

If too much bone is absorbed and broken down by the body, the patients may need a bone graft, either surgically harvested from their own chin, jaw, skull or hip, or from animal-derived bone - these are expensive and not acceptable to patients with religious restrictions.

With the enhanced 3D-printed plugs manufactured by dental plug manufacturer Osteopore, patients will go through a shorter and less painful treatment process as the plugs are placed immediately after extraction, eliminating the need for bone grafts.

The plug prevents the bone from being absorbed by the body, and facilitates bone growth so that a dental implant can be placed. It then degrades gradually over 12 months, allowing the patient's own bone to fill in over time.

Patients will also save money as dental plugs are 3D-printed in bulk using synthetic materials.

Each plug is estimated to cost $100 to $400, and patients can expect to see their treatment process duration halved to just six months, as well as save at least $2,000 on procedure costs.

"Our teeth will determine if we can eat solid food and have a nutritious diet - so we hope to improve the quality of life of Singaporeans through this dental plug, especially now that our lifespans are longer," said Associate Professor Teoh Yee Leong, a public health physician and chief executive officer of the Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI).

 

In partnership with SCRI and Osteopore, a randomised controlled clinical trial to evaluate the use of these dental plugs is now open for participant recruitment.

Clinical Associate Professor Goh Bee Tin, director of research and education at NDCS, who is leading the trial, said: "We are continually looking for ways to collaborate with bioengineers and the medtech industry to co-develop innovative and value-based solutions that can be translated to better treatments and outcomes."

The clinical trial aims to recruit 138 patients by next January.

Anyone interested in taking part can contact the NDCS clinical research office on 6324-8754 or 6435-2068 or e-mail research@ndcs.com.sg