3D printing is an exciting technology being deployed in dentistry, and the potential uses for it are endless. At the rate it is going, dental labs could be a thing of the past. 3D printing is a phrase used to describe the process of creating three objects from a digital file using a materials printer. It is also known as additive manufacturing technology, which is where a three-dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers.
As it stands, adding on a dental lab is a significant cost for any dental practice. If the practice buys all the equipment, employs the skilled staff to produce dental implants, and keeps it going, the cost of building and running the lab could cost $100,000 per year.
For a one-time fee of approximately $20,000 for a 3D printer with a starting supply of materials, a dental practice can start making their own dental implants. The dentist will be able to scan the patient’s mouth with a digital wand, and then create a 3D image of the patient’s teeth and gums. This file is saved in a computer file, and then the dentist digitally designs the tooth repair, and prints the finished product on the 3D printer.
In orthodontics, the doctor has the patient bite down on a gummy piece of clay, so they can get a mold for designing braces. Now the dentist can scan the patient’s teeth, design the appliance, and then print the result in-house. 3D printing can produce crowns, bridges, caps, dentures, construct drill guides for dental procedures, and more. The only difference is the precise materials used in the printing process. The use of 3D printing cuts costs dramatically, allowing for dentists to deliver their services at a lower cost.
Post processing is a necessary last step, because with some printers, the materials produced still require the handwork of a skilled technician to give it finishing touches, like, light curing, cleaning, investing, casting, articulation, color correction, and all types of preparation depending on the device being printed. But most of the work is completed automatically.
One of the most important advantages with 3D-printing is that it saves the dental technician a lot of time. The digital copy is received in minutes, since it is sent electronically. The technician can start working as soon as the copy of the scanning arrives.
Although 3D-printing has been around for more than 20 years, it is still new to the dental industry. However, the field of 3D-printing in the dental industry is growing wider and wider, and the development of 3D printing is an amazing development in the industry today. The additive production process of 3D-printing brings so many advantages and opportunities when creating dental products.