If you haven’t noticed already, dentists tend to be technology nuts. We’re always looking for the next and best way to provide patients with better versions of dental solutions such as crowns, dentures and dental implants. The advancements in dental tech over the last few decades have been truly incredible, and we are starting to see signs of the next wave of advancements: the integration of 3-D printing into dental care.
Many dentists are already using a form of computerized manufacturing in the form of computer-controlled milling machines. These machines can carve custom crowns or bridges out of a block of ceramic or porcelain, based on the information provided by a digital 3-D model that comes from a scan of your mouth.
3-D printing for dentistry will also work off a digital 3-D model, but instead of telling the machine to carve away material, the printer will be told to add material. Most 3-D printers work by extruding very thin layers of material, one on top of the other, to form a three-dimensional shape. As of now, these printers primarily use plastic materials to print. Many companies are working on developing and improving dental-grade plastics and resins that will work in a 3-D printer and look natural.
Dentists and dental laboratories are already using 3-D printers to create models of patients’ teeth for treatment planning purposes, surgical guides for the accurate placement of dental implants, clear orthodontic aligners (like Invisalign®) and dentures. Using 3-D printers to do this is much more cost-efficient and less wasteful than traditional methods.
The possibility of 3-D printing of affordable dentures is particularly exciting. For those who have lost their natural teeth and cannot afford or are not eligible for dental implants, dentures are a common solution. However, creating dentures is labor intensive, which ads to the cost. With 3-D printing reducing the time, labor and materials cost of manufacturing dentures, we may be nearing a future in which the cost of a high-quality set of dentures falls significantly.
Just like dentistry, 3-D printing is a rapidly advancing industry, and we’re sure there are new discoveries and techniques being tested everyday. As part of our pledge to bring you the best possible dental care, we’ll stay on top of all the latest technology in dentistry and invest to bring you the best right here in our practice, as soon as it lives up to our high standards of care.