As well as helping you chew your hamburger, dentures could one day fight oral fungal infections, suggest researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.
The population is getting older. In fact, it is predicted that almost half of Europe will be over 50 years old in the year 2050. Assuming that trends stay the same, this means increasingly more people will need dentures.
Dental acrylic, what dentures are made of, is prone to microbial growth. One common microbe infection with dentures is candidiasis, caused by a fungus called Candida. “Candida are … frequently encountered in the mouth of healthy individuals,” one of the lead authors of the published study, Sladjana Malic, told me. Wearing dentures can increase the chances that the fungus will cause an infection.
For people with candidiasis, eating and swallowing can become difficult. Although it is treatable using antifungal drugs, resistance to these drugs is increasing. According to Malic, developing new antifungals is hard because fungal cells are more similar to human cells than bacteria, increasing the risk that the drug can damage human cells through friendly fire.
To address this issue, the researchers decided to make an antifungal resin that, if made into dentures, could prevent microbe infections in the mouth. They mixed dental acrylic with a porous mineral called zeolite. The resin is filled with silver particles, which are slowly released through the pores, killing the fungi.
The researchers found that the resin killed Candida species for up to 45 days in the lab. They could even ‘recharge’ the resin by giving it a bath of silver ions.
This resin has not been made into dentures yet, but Malic told me that the researchers were exploring its potential for commercialization. The market potential of novel antifungal therapies is something that many companies, such as Novartis, are hoping to sink their teeth into.
Images from Shutterstock, Manchester Metropolitan University