3D Printing Applications in Dentistry

3D printing has had a remarkable effect in the medical industry over the last decade. From prototyping to finished products, additive manufacturing has influenced several aspects of medicine. With the aid of a 3D printing, surgeons and orthopedic doctors can print tissues, bones, support devices and other bio-compatible solutions. 

In today’s article, we look at 3D printing in dentistry. With many advances in resin technology, 3D printing has successfully touched on dentures, sleeping devices, surgical tools and even tooth replacement. The availability of dental scanners and new CAD solutions make for a feasible case of customized approaches, allowing dentists to capture a patient’s dental anatomy and propose tailored solutions to achieving that perfect smile. 3D Printing of dental models and apparatuses is also comparatively faster and more affordable than conventional solutions. Here are some of the most remarkable applications of 3D printing in dentistry. 

Understanding Dental 3D Printing 

The current market share of 3D printing is around some $780m in the dental market. The growth of additive manufacturing in the dental sector of the medical industry is widely attributed to the invent of dental scanners. Several applications have been devised from 3D printing, allowing dentists to make a CAD model of a patient’s dental anatomy and print perfect fitting fixtures. Dental 3D printing is expected to be the go-to solution for over 60 percent of all dental production needs in the next 4 years. Through resin-based printing like SLA, DLP and PolyJet Printers, many dental processes will continue to fall onto 3D printing to exploit and improve solutions through design complexities.  

The Importance of Dental Scanners 

Dental scanners are one of the most important elements of dental 3D printing. These devices enable dentists to provide accurate and customized solutions by capturing high-definition images of the oral cavity. Dental scanners are capable of providing a more detailed model of oral areas, capturing impressions of tough-to-reach spots. 

Dental scanners are used alongside important software that analyze all the data from the capture, create CAD models and suggest potential treatment options. While some dental 3D printing applications exist as standalones, the lack of dental scanners in 3D printing will significantly impede dentists and clinics from harnessing the full potential and capability of the additive manufacturing process.

Limitations & Challenges 

Despite its widespread use in the medical industry, dental 3D printing still faces some challenges and limitations. The major impediment to accelerated 3D adoption and development in the dental industry is cost. Dental 3D printing is still limited to printing dental models, surgical prototypes and dental apparatuses, and cannot print actual dentures. This is because dentures require metal 3D printing. 

The dental models that are made through additive manufacturing also lack the precision that is craved for dentists to achieve near-perfect results. Lastly, the high procurement cost means that it is not a widely available solution in conventional dental clinics. Away from these challenges, additive manufacturing and 3D printing currently delivers a diverse range of practical applications in dentistry.

3D Printing Capabilities in Dentistry 

3D printing capabilities in dentistry today is made possible with the aid of power resin technology, CAD models and intuitive designs. As at today, the following aspects are areas where the power of 3D printing is being harnessed: 

• Tooth Replacement 

With the aid of a dental scanner, dentists can obtain 3D images of patient’s oral compositions. This enables the dentist to digitally design the best-fit solutions for treating gums, repairing or replacing a tooth. 

The 3D image is used in CAD software that allows the dentist to proceed to print the tooth on a 3D printer. 3D printers are equally capable of printing bridges, caps, dentures and other categories of dental implants. 

• Orthodontic Models 

3D printing eliminates conventional dental modelling techniques and accelerates the procurement of quality orthodontic models. The conventional technique for orthodontic models involve the use of a bio-compatible clay material that is bitten by the client to obtain a model for treatment or the production of braces. With dental scanners, dentists can scan the patient’s oral cavity, and develop inexpensive orthodontic apparatuses and models for in-house or outsourced 3D printing service

These models also help improve the accuracy of surgical procedures as dentists can verify if the tooth or part they have designed will fit into the patient’s oral anatomy.  

• Surgical Tools 

3D printing can be applied for rapid prototyping and production of surgical and dental apparatuses. As soon as the design file of the tool is available, dentists can work with manufacturing outfits like Firstpart to 3D print their tool. This is especially useful for special or one-off surgical operations that need custom tools to match the anatomy of the patient’s mouth. 

• Aligners & Mouth guards 

3D printing is widely applied in the creation of transparent aligners and mouth guards. With the right resin, 3D-printed aligners and night guards can be made to appear as inconspicuous as possible. The use of dental scanners allows for high accuracy and fitting, while the 3D process itself can deliver the kind of speed that can’t be matched in conventional techniques. 

3D printing is coveted in this aspect of dentistry for its speed, accuracy and array of customizations. 

3D Printing Advantages in Dentistry 

• Shorter leadtimes

Dentists and patients can take advantage of the power of dental scanners, digital imaging, CAD software and high-end 3D printers to obtain multiple units of prototypes and products in as quick as 48 to 72 hours.  

• Lower costs 

3D printer trumps the cost of conventional dental consulting, repairing and replacement techniques. When run in-house, the entire cost of a top 3D printer model will be around $20k.This is a relatively small amount compared to initial dental laboratory startup costs of about $100k. 

From the patient perspective, a lot of cost-savings can be obtained from the speed, precision and lower overheads. Through conventional techniques, fitting a crown for a patient can be as expensive as $1k. With 3D printing, this cost can fall as low as $300. 

• Higher precision 

3D printing allows dental practitioners to get it right at first attempt. Because of the high accuracy of the dental scanners, dentists can work with precise orthodontic models and patient oral anatomy. This allows for the creation of more treatment, denture, surgical tools, aligners, night guards and other dental implants that will always fit and work as intended.