3D printing is a technology where a printer creates a 3D solid object by laying down successive layers of material. The printer creates a representation of the object from a digital file or a scan produced by a 3D scanner.
3D printing was first introduced in 1983. And since then, this technology has gained increased popularity in various industries with vast different applications, including consumer products (furniture, footwear, eyewear), industrial products, architecture, and prosthetics. Among these applications, dentistry is probably one of the most prominent.
Besides its own technological advancement, 3D printing gains popularity in the dental industry overtime because of the technological change in other technology. Computerized imaging systems such as cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) have seen significant development. Additionally, the use of CAD/CAM technologies and intraoral scanning also add to the increasing importance of 3D printing. Moreover, dental technicians nowadays have a broader understanding of digital dentistry technologies and a high level of creativity. Please read our blog below to see the applications of 3D printing in dentistry.
Applications of 3D printing in dentistry
Anatomical items replica
Dental 3D printing allows dentists to create high quality replications of anatomical items, such as a three-dimensional dental model of the patient’s jaws. This allows dentists to obtain a better understanding of a patient’s anatomy before developing a surgical approach, minimizing the risks that might occur during surgery.
Additionally, dentists can create new methods and procedures for surgery thanks to viewing the mandibles and jaws created by 3D printers. This application of 3D printing has become mainstream thanks to the development of cone-beam computed tomography, as the high quality image data provided by CBCT can be imported to the 3D printer to create a perfect replica of the patient’s jaws.
3D printers can create drilling and cutting surgical guides to make the surgery process easier for dentists. Surgical guides allow dentists to create a digital 3D surgery plan that guides them through the whole implant procedure. Through 3D printing, dentists can improve the accuracy of the guides.
Dentists have been using 3D printers to create dental implants. 3D printers have the ability to print complex geometries, such as bone-like morphology, with the bone tissue tailored to the requirement of each patient and can act as biomimetic scaffolds for bone cell enhancement. Additionally, dentists use 3D printing to create maxillofacial dental implants.
Crowns and bridges
For fixed and removable crowns and bridges, dentists could use 3D printers to indirectly print in burn-out resins or waxes for a lost-wax process, or directly in metals or metal alloys. Verifying the fit of prosthodontics before cementing them to a patient’s teeth is often critically important. With the help of intraoral optical scanners, dentists could develop a precise virtual model of the patient’s teeth to test the fit of prosthodontics treatment. This scan data is then used with CAD design to mill or print crowns and bridges.
Aligners and braces
With 3D printings, dentists can now print aligners and braces for patients in a matter of minutes. The process is straightforward. Firstly, dentists use a cone-beam CT or intraoral scanner to scan the patient data. They would then use software to realign the patient’s teeth to make a series of 3D printed models before printing. 3D printing also makes each product more accurate and custom, as they are created from precise scans of a patient’s teeth.
Additionally, researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have developed an orthodontic system that uses smart 3D printed braces with batteries. The aim of these braces is to align and straighten the patient’s teeth faster thanks to the LED lights.
3D printing has accelerated the development of new and innovative dental equipment. Dentists could use 3D printers to create prototypes of their product ideas quickly, test them, and make adjustments.
So what do all these applications mean for your practice?
3D printing technology has made it possible for dentists to reduce the time and cost to create perfect dental dentures, implants, crowns, braces, aligners, etc. This technology is currently used widely in several aspects of dentistry. And this dental industry trend is not going to slow down anytime soon.
However, even though 3D printers are becoming more affordable, this technology has a steep learning curve. Additionally, it may be quite costly for dentists to acquire biocompatible materials and maintain this dental appliance in the long-term. Despite these concerns, we believe that 3D printing is going to become the new standard for modern dentistry. All dentists should consider adopting this dental dentistry trend.
Watch an introductory video of our SprintRay Pro 3D Printer.