By Coronation Dental Specialty Group  [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
You’d have to be pretty out of the loop to not have heard about the miracle of 3D printing by now. What you may not know, is how these printers are impacting the dental industry. These object producing machines make it much easier to create retainers, stone models, orthodontic tools, trays for positioning and delivery, surgical guides and more. Not only will it be easier to create these must-haves for dentistry, they will be more accurate than before. This improvement in dental processes, will mean a better dental experience for both patient and dentist.
The key to making these 3D printers work for dentistry, is 3D scanners. While you wait, a dentist can take a quick scan of your teeth, sending it off to the lab to create your crown, or anything else you may need. That sure beats having to bite down on a mold for what can seem like an hour.
This technology isn’t just exciting because it makes things faster and easier, the most thrilling part of it all, is that it may make things much less expensive. Mark Frame, an orthopedic surgeon in the UK, has already developed a prototype to manufacture surgery quality prosthetic bone using a 3D printer. The prosthetic only cost £77 to make. Compared to the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars these same prosthetic bones cost previously, £77 is a steal. Many companies have developed special 3D printers and accompanying software to allow dentists to render both molds, and those who make them, unnecessary.
With 3D printers becoming more affordable and accessible, we may begin seeing them at the dentist more frequently. Many dental labs have already adopted “digital dentistry” into their practice. It remains to be seen how widespread these amazing machines will be used, but it’s safe to say they are changing things in dentistry. Let’s just hope that some of those savings get passed on to the patient!