Some cutting edge dental laboratories have adopted 3D printing technology to improve efficiency and production accuracy. These printers can be used to replace the traditional process for fabricating models out of stone or plaster. Wax forms can be 3D printed for the lost wax casting technique versus manually waxing. 3D Printers are being used in the fabrication of implant surgical guides. And of course in the all-digital workflow for crown & bridge and implant restoration, a physical model can be printed from the digital impression STL file whenever desired. Using 3D printing in the dental laboratory can reduce man hours while having positive impacts on production efficiency and precision.
But what about the dental practice? Will we see a time when a 3D printer is commonplace in general dental and orthodontic practices? As digital impression technologies continue to gain adoption, 3D printer manufacturers reduce equipment footprint, and materials engineers create a wider array of printable, biocompatible options, the answer just very well may be “yes”. Imagine the possibilities. Take a digital impression and print a study model for aid in treatment planning. In the orthodontic practice, a set of before and after models could be printed. Using design software, one would show the current teeth alignment, and another would simulate position after treatment. Such models could be used in the general dental practice to use in treatment plan presentation for large-scale restorative and cosmetic cases. Imagine the dentist being able to send such models home with the patient to help them discuss the proposed treatment with spouse or partner. For those without in-office milling capabilities, imagine being able to print temporary restorations. And perhaps one day in the not too distant future, printable material and curing technologies will advance to allow 3D printing to replace milling as a fabrication option for permanent prosthetics in the dental practice.
It is an exciting time to be in the dental industry. Digital imaging technologies and new modeling & fabrication equipment are enabling the digital workflow, improving precision, and helping dental laboratories and practices make efficiency gains. However, the ultimate beneficiary of these technique advancements is the patient. That’s what I call a true win-win-win.
Are you using 3D printing technology? What is your take on the rapid advancement of such technologies in the dental industry? Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.
We see 3D printers delivering an “on demand” solution for study models. This will decrease the need for a dentist to maintain a storage site and inventory system for study models. If one is needed for review at some time in the future, simply print one out.
Steve, I think you’ve hit on a key solution for 3D printing technology in the dental practice, especially for orthodontists. As digital impression technology continues to become more widespread, this is a natural offshoot. Thank you for reading and for the reply. I can’t wait to see the progress of S-Ray!
Michael, you are always on top of the latest… 🙂 Stratasys has a smaller version of their printer out now, specifically for this purpose. It’s called Orthodesk. http://www.stratasys.com/industries/dental/objet30-orthodesk
At IDS we saw a small tabletop printer that was printing temps. There were many people surrounding the booth, likely wondering who would use this, how long it took, and noting how small the footprint was. The company was DWS out of Italy. http://www.dwssystems.com/DWS_DFAB_2013.pdf
Thank you for the comment and for reading! I have heard of the Stratasys Orthodesk printer….good to see it may be gaining some traction. Very interesting about the printer at IDS printing temps. Thank you for sharing these details!
S-Ray, Stratasys, and DWS are all very interesting companies and concepts that are much needed to keep our industry moving forward. I run a digital only dental lab (Innovative Dental Technologies) that only accepts digital impressions. My re-make rate is less than 2% and I can get the cases back to the practices in half the time of a traditional laboratory. The ability to cheaply and quickly print a model is very intriguing to me for verification and case acceptance purposes. Thanks to all who help push the digitization of dentistry!
Darin, thank you for reading, commenting, and your commitment to digital dentistry.
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Michael, We got the first ConeBeam CT in Alabama (one of the first in SouthEast) and the first orthodontist in the USA to have CBCT and 3DMD facial 3D surface imaging. The addition of 3D surface scans of the crowns of the teeth and co-registering them with CBCT for roots, etc. and the 3D face now allows us to create a virtual 3D patient for accurate Diagnosis and treatment planning and added value of creating appliances, etc. will change the face of dentistry and orthodontics. My interest in 3D began on an Atari computer in 1982. Now with the interest in Airway and its affect on craniofacial growth, orthodontics, dentistry and medicine are finally coming together on a topic that affects the health and well being of patients, beyond esthetics.
Dr. Bill Harrell
Thank you for reading and for your comment! I really appreciate you taking the time to provide your feedback from an extensive clinical perspective. I would welcome future contributions of a clinical nature from you as a guest author. Please let me know if this would appeal to you. I think you have much to offer, especially with respect to the growing field of airway management and overall wellness which you referenced in your comment.
Interesting to see the advances in 3D printing for dental purposes in the year since your posting, Michael. My bet is we will see Moore’s law apply to 3D for dental purposes – the next 12 months should be a lot of fun!
One more point – at S-Ray we engage with dental Key Opinion Leaders. We have learned to look into what a person has done to determine if they really are a KOL. Your work in trying to define digital dentistry and taking a very public stand on it is an example of leadership.
Continue on, Michael.
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Thank you for your kind sentiments! I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about S-Ray and our interactions since I first posted “Sounds Like a Cavity” a couple years ago – https://jmichaeldunn.com/2012/05/30/sounds-like-a-cavity/
Perhaps it’s time to do an update article?
Again, thank you for reading and for your support. I sincerely appreciate it.
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