By: Heather Tackett
No one likes going to the dentist, but imagine needing a crown, bridge, appliance or implant and only having to make one appointment. The dental industry is rapidly changing and the most well-known case of this is Invisalign. In 2012 alone, Align Technology, the company behind Invisalign, printed 17 million of their transparent dental braces for patients. Invisalign has adopted Stereo Lithography (SLA) as their technology of choice, pioneering the 3D printed dental market. Due to their ability and need to print in large quantities, the cost-to-quantity ratio has made the technology more than beneficial and cost effective for this application. While other forms of 3D printing in the dental industry are still being perfected and developed, there are many factors contributing to the desire to use 3D printers in office.
In order to print a model, one must have a file; the dental industry has found a way to combine oral scanning and CAD/CAM design to create exact models for their patients. The best part about 3D printing for this application – if there is a problem with the printed piece, changes can be made to the file quickly and easily and a replacement piece can be printed. What is even more incredible is that a US Dentist completed all of this in office during a single appointment!
Welcome to the future, no more temporary pieces and then going back weeks later for the rest. Traditionally, there are impressions taken, molds made, which is then sent to another facility where the new piece is made using subtractive manufacturing. Unlike subtractive manufacturing, there is little to no waste in additive manufacturing (3D printing), a huge indicator as to why this technology could be so revolutionary for the dental industry.
Each and every mouth is individual; since the printer builds from the bottom up and only what the operator tells it to, each and every customer’s unique and individual needs can be created on demand. This all sounds too good to be true, right? Well it sort of is, there are prohibiting factors to the technology for many dental professionals, the largest of these being cost. Dental work can already be somewhat costly and the 3D printers for this advancement are pricey for a not so widely adopted method. Truth be told, if the technology was inexpensive the advancement would be more widely accepted as it would be more widely accessible.
The potential is there and the solution is clear 3D, printing will shape the future of the dental industry! Read the rest of this entry »