Your neighborhood dentist's office may soon have its own 3D printer. A group of scientists from the Netherlands is developing a plastic that could be used to 3D print teeth. But this isn't just any old plastic: This material would kill oral bacteria on contact. 

In a study in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, researchers from the University of Groningen detail the development of an antimicrobial plastic that would prevent the decay of artificial teeth. The plastic features quaternary ammonium salts, which are often used as disinfectants. These salts aren’t harmful to humans, but wreak havoc on bacterial cells. 

The antimicrobial plastic killed 99 percent of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in a saliva mixture in the lab. The researchers think the material could be used for both dentures and braces, but it will still need to be tested to see how it holds up for periods longer than the six-day saliva soak test, and to make sure it’s compatible with toothpaste. 

Before you get too excited about potentially having a completely sterile mouth, remember that not all bacteria are bad. The human mouth has one of the body’s most diverse microbiomes, containing a huge number of bacterial species scientists haven’t even named yet. Given that experts are just beginning to understand how important bacteria are to our health, we might not want to kill off all the creatures living in our mouths just yet. 

[h/t: New Scientist]