How 3D Printing is Changing Dentistry

Smiling female holding a hand held mirror admiring her smile.

3D technology has revolutionized nearly every industry. Developed 30 years ago, 3D technology makes it easier for companies to produce detailed products more quickly and accurately. Now dental companies and dentist offices are using 3D technology to improve patient care. Here’s how 3D printing is changing dentistry.

Precision design

3D printers use a chemical process called polymerization to fuse liquids or powders to make intricate dental materials. These products include personalized veneers, crowns, bridges, night guards, appliances and dentures. 3D printing is more precise in design for an accurate fit. If adjustments are needed, the changes usually can be made while the patient waits.

Saves time, money

Traditionally, dental offices take impressions of patients’ teeth to get the correct shape for restoration. Then they send the forms to an outside dental lab where the crowns, veneers or bridges are made. Dentists pay the dental lab, and the cost is included in the price for the procedure.

Most dental labs take two to three weeks to produce custom dental materials by hand. Once finished, the ordered item is returned to the dental office where the dentist checks to see how it fits in the patient’s mouth. The dentist can make minor adjustments to improve the fit. However, if the crown or bridge still does not fit correctly, it is sent back to the lab to remake it. This can be frustrating for patients, because they will have to come back again to finish the procedure. And, they will need to keep wearing the temporary crown or bridge until the permanent one is remade.

With 3D technology, dental labs or dental offices can use a 3D printer to make customized dental materials onsite. Here are some printer examples. While 3D printers are considered expensive, many busy dental labs and large dentist offices can justify purchasing at least one.

What’s next?

3D dental designers are perfecting ways to use 3D printers to make full sets of teeth for patients needing dentures. Researchers anticipate that this new process will make getting dentures a much more comfortable procedure. One-day dental crowns have been available for some time.

Dental care can be costly, so it pays to take care of your teeth. Always wear a mouth guard when playing sports, and brush and floss daily. Here’s why flossing is essential.

Oral Health
Institute of Digital Dentistry