Gone are the waiting days on end for customized clear aligners and dentures. With additive manufacturing (more popularly known as 3D printing technology), dentists’ offices can increase efficiency, lower production costs, and enhance customer experience. The future looks very bright indeed!
What is 3D printing?
3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM) technologies create three-dimensional parts from computer-aided design (CAD) models by successively adding material layer by layer until the physical piece is created. Pretty neat, right?
Believe it or not, 3D printing technologies have been around since the 1980s. Still, recent advances in machinery, materials, and software have made 3D printing accessible to a more extensive range of businesses, enabling more and more companies to use tools and digital workflows that were previously available to only a few select high-tech industries.
What’s Dental 3D Printing?
3D printing is involved in many different industries, but no industry benefits as much as the medical fields, including dentistry.
We all have different bodies, so it’s safe to say that we all need individualized solutions to fit our specific needs. 3D printing technologies help customize solutions to the individual with little to no turn-around time.
And did I mention it’s a flourishing industry? Not too long ago, the consulting firm QY Research announced that dental 3D printing would reach $930 million by the end of 2025. This means the market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 17%! So, expect to see a lot more digital dentistry in the future.
How can 3D Printing be used in Dentistry?
Now that you know what 3D printing is and how it works, how exactly do dentists use 3D printing technology? Here are just a few of its applications:
- Replace/repair a damaged tooth: Your dentist can now scan your mouth with a small digital wand (almost like magic!) that creates a 3D image of your teeth and gums, saved as a computer file. From there, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software enables your dentist to digitally design the tooth in need of repair and print the finished product on a 3D printer.
- Create an orthodontic model and clear aligners: Ah, the days of the gooey, uncomfortable clay can finally be put to rest.! Before 3D printer technology, to have a mold made, you would have to bite down on a slimy, stiff clay so it could then harden into a mold, which is made into an initial model for designing a treatment for braces or Invisalign. But with 3D printing? A dentist can use the same digital workflow to replace or repair a damaged tooth so that you, the patient, can get your clear aligners in-house explicitly molded for your mouth – without the wait.
- Produce crowns, bridges, caps, and more: The digital workflows described above can be used to 3D print all kinds of different dental implants. The only difference is the explicit material used in the printing process.
- Construct surgical tools: Not only can 3D printers handle the dental implants themselves, but they can also 3D print surgical instruments so your dentist can perform more accurate and precise surgeries!
Benefits of 3D printing in Dentistry
- Dentists save money: For most dental offices, having an in-house dental laboratory is out of the question since the cost is significantly high, with a starting price of $100,000; they also have to employ skilled staff to produce the dental implants aligners, and so on. As you can imagine, this presents a considerable ongoing investment. Now, compare this to a one-time price of around $20,000 for a top-model 3D printer (including a starting supply of materials). It’s no wonder 3D printing is taking the dental industry by storm.
- Patients save money: Each patient’s bill (depending on their treatment plan) reflects the high costs of adding and running a dental laboratory. Using traditional methods, a single crown can easily cost a patient $2,000 or more. But with 3D printers lowering overhead costs by 80%, dentists can now pass the savings along to their patients, giving them even more reason to smile!
- Dental and orthopedic services are faster and more accurate: Have you ever tried to make a denture manually? It’s an incredibly time-consuming process that requires patience, skill, and a steady hand. But with 3D printing, you can have multiple appliances printed all at once! Not to mention, accuracy is also improved since 3D printers convert digital images into physical objects seamlessly by printing 16-micron-thick layers on top of the other. You can also count on increased production capacity and more accurate fits that benefit dentists and patients.
These are just a few ways digital dentistry and 3D printing processes are beginning to revolutionize the dental industry.
So, are “traditional” or “digital” workflows better used in the dental industry? The truth is modern dental workflows can combine the best of both worlds. 3D printing ushers in a plethora of new possibilities and opportunities for the industry and a diverse range of benefits for the patient.
Interested in experiencing the 3D dental benefits firsthand? If you want the best possible dental treatment for you and your family, choose Dental Arts of Atlantis. Contact us online or call us at (561) 965 – 6003 to schedule an appointment for you or a family member.