Will 3D Printing Forever Change the Dental Industry?

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Summation

  • But is it possible that 3D printing technology could change the individual experience and the future of the dental industry as a whole.
  • But further technology could allow the dentist to create a digital design of the repair or replacement and render it with 3D printing.
  • A chipped or broken tooth is one of the most common reasons for a trip to the dentist.

Technology advancements have been rapidly changing in the last few years. Self-driving cars and personalized flights into space are two such advancements. 3D printing has been around for years, but thanks to digital technology, it’s recently taken the dental profession by storm.

The dental industry is always on the lookout for technology that will elevate the patient’s experience while helping the bottom line. 3D printing accomplishes both of these things. Visiting the dentist can cause some people to experience anxiety, even if the visit is painless.

Northstar dental offices understand the importance of dental health and do their best to make each visit a pleasant experience.

But is it possible that 3D printing technology could change the individual experience and the future of the dental industry as a whole? Read on to find out why so many people have high expectations of this industry shift.

What is 3D Printing?

To begin to understand the impact 3D printing could have on dentistry, it’s important to know what it is and how it works. 3D printing is a process that turns a digital image into a physical object.

The desired design is uploaded to a computer program specifically for 3D printing. The printer combines different materials together to form a tangible product. The computer uses a nozzle to ‘draw’ the product in repetitive thin layers on a dedicated build platform. The process is quick and seamless, with little-to-no waste.

The materials are made from liquid or powdered plastic. Metal or cement can also be used to create solid objects through 3D printing.

3D printing could initially only create models or prototypes. Thanks to advancements in the field, technology can now render wholesale products.

How Does it Work in Dentistry?

3D printing is already widely used in some industries. Cosmetic companies use the technology to create jewelry, musical instruments, figurines, and even weapons such as guns. Audiologists can even use 3D printing to create custom hearing aids.

Dentistry is an industry that is constantly seeking innovation and reshaping dental procedures. In fact, 3D printing has been used by dentists for years to take x-rays of a patient’s teeth.

As cutting-edge 3D technology continues to expand, what are some of the other dental innovations we might see in the future?

Repair or replace damaged teeth. A chipped or broken tooth is one of the most common reasons for a trip to the dentist. Getting a damaged tooth repaired often begins with dental x-rays. 3D imaging is already prevalent in most dental offices, using a digital wand to scan a patient’s mouth and gums. But further technology could allow the dentist to create a digital design of the repair or replacement and render it with 3D printing.

Create a customized orthodontic mold. Some dental offices don’t have the capabilities for 3D imagining. Instead, they still rely on the old-school method of the patient biting down on clay to create a mold. In the future, dentists could use the 3D dental wand to scan the teeth to create braces and other orthodontic equipment.

Quickly and precisely produce dental prostheses. There are several different types of dental prosthetics. Crowns, bridges, caps, and dentures are all used to fix a myriad of dental issues. However, the manufacturing process of the prostheses can take weeks or months. 3D printing speeds up the production process exponentially. The technology can also create all kinds of dental implants.

Build the necessary tools needed for dental work. Purchasing and maintaining dental tools can prove costly. Surely, if 3D technology can shape dental implants, it can create dental surgical tools such as drills, too.

Advantages of 3D Printing

It may be years before 3D printing becomes the standard in dentistry. What are some of the advantages 3D printing offers dentists and their patients?

Saves Money

Saving money is important to everyone, including dental offices. Traditional methods of creating molds, dentures, etc., involve sending the schematics to an outside lab for rendering. With 3D printing, dentists can save money by creating the products in-house.

Faster Service

Not only does 3D printing save money, but it also saves time. One of the reasons why dental prosthetics can take weeks to make is by sending them off-site. Hosting a 3D printer at the practice speeds up every step in the dental visit, from x-rays to fitting crowns.

Better Accuracy

Making models manually is a time-consuming process that leaves room for errors. 3D printing is renowned for its accuracy and speed. Additionally, adjustments can be made during printing. 3D printing is more accessible, more affordable, and more precise.

Happier Patients

Patients aren’t always very patient. The speed of 3D printing will cut back their overall time in the dentist’s chair. Many patients without comprehensive dental insurance have to pay out-of-pocket or with payment plans, which can sometimes result in neglecting their dental health. The cost-saving from the 3D printer could see a reduction in the overall price of dental procedures, ultimately saving the patient money.

Environmentally Friendly

The materials used in 3D printing aren’t harmful to the environment. The precision of the printing leaves very little waste, some of which may be recycled or biodegradable.

Same-day Rendering

The speed and accuracy of 3D printing models could mean crowns, partial plates, and other dental prosthetics are ready on the same day. As it stands now, repairing or replacing a tooth requires multiple visits spread out over several weeks. With 3D printing, a patient could potentially walk in with a broken tooth and walk out with a pearly smile.

Bottom Line: Is 3D Printing the Future of the Dental Industry?

3D printing is changing a variety of industries across the globe. A recent study by SmarTech Analysis put the market for medical 3D printing at $1.25 billion. The dental industry is constantly evolving, but is it ready to embrace 3D printing technology?

While these ideas are intriguing, the dental industry is still in the early stages of exploring 3D printing technology. Therefore, it is too soon to know exactly how this technology will shape dentistry in the future.

In the meantime, dentists continue to offer their patients customized care using traditional mechanisms.

 

 

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