3D printing technologies have existed for more than four decades, and these have been used across many medical field applications, including dentistry. Since its inception, the capabilities and applications of 3D printing in dentistry have changed significantly.

3D printing technologies in dentistry

Today, dental practitioners have the option of purchasing 3D printers and incorporating this equipment into their treatments. Dentistry professionals who embrace this practice need to understand the benefits of this technology and the different technical factors that impact the performance of this machinery to choose the right option. 

In this article, we’ll analyze the role of 3D printing in dentistry and share the benefits of this practice. We’ll also go over the capabilities and applications of 3D printers and provide tips to help you choose the best piece of equipment for your dental office. 

Growth & Benefits Of 3D Printing in Dentistry

First, let’s go over the growth trajectory and advantages of 3D printing. Dental practitioners have been using this type of technology for decades, to the point that 3D printing in the dental space alone was worth more than $2 billion. A large number of projection models estimate that this number will increase significantly as more practitioners and manufacturers adopt 3D printers in the dental care space. 

This type of equipment also brings a variety of benefits, thanks to its ability to create digital models, accelerate the manufacturing process, and cut high-cost overheads. 

This includes:

  • Reduce dental laboratory and outsourcing costs
  • Lower patient care costs
  • Faster treatment turnaround powered by a computer-aided design
  • Higher precision thanks to an exact digital model
  • Better treatment options for damage to hard and soft tissues

3D Printing in Dentistry: What It Can Do

So, 3D printers can create precise models, be guided by a fully-digital workflow, and use biocompatible materials. What does this mean for your dental practice? 

This means you can address tooth damage, build models, produce implants, and even build tools using your 3D dental printer. 3D printing equipment employs thermoplastic materials to create models and tools, giving practitioners the ability to create an infinite number of additional resources. 

As part of the treatment planning process, practitioners use a scanning wand to create a digital impression of the patient’s mouth. You can then use the digital impression to create dental crowns and oral appliances and even plan surgical procedures tailored to the patient’s anatomy.

Applications of 3D Printing in Dentistry And Oral Health

Not only has 3D printing been used in oral and maxillofacial surgery as well as other treatments for decades, but this type of equipment is essential to the modern industry. 

3D Printing for dental restorations

From dental restorations to digital dentures and other dental treatments, 3D printers play a crucial role in many areas. Each clinical application is unique, but the laser technology and the CAD software that powers these are the same.

Here are some of the areas where you can incorporate 3D printing today. 

Medical Modeling

The practice of 3D printing teeth models has become relatively common. This is just one of the ways that 3D-printed models can be used in dentistry. 

Now, it’s important to note that advancements in digital technologies such as CAD software, cone beam computed tomography technology, and other digital areas are also responsible for the success of 3D printing in this application.  

Drilling and Cutting Guides

Drilling and cutting guides are surgical appliances that guide practitioners during dental procedures. This practice is becoming extremely common because it enhances accuracy, reduces the need for extensive patient care after surgery, and improves overall treatment outcomes. 

Partial Denture Frameworks and Crown Copings

3D-printed models are also becoming a common resource for dentists creating removable partial frameworks for dentures using biocompatible resins. 

What’s more! You can also create a model of a patient’s oral cavity and use it to create crown copings. By crafting a precise model, dentists can consider elements like dental arches without creating a potentially inaccurate manual version.  

Models for Restorative Dentistry

Not all dental restoration cases require a physical model, but having a real-size reference is still useful in many instances. For example, models can be used to add veneering materials to implants and to display the final results to patients with ease. 

Digital Orthodontics

3D printers can be used to create treatment plans, build custom tools, or alter appliances using a digital interface. This translates to significant savings in time, new materials, and labor, giving practitioners more flexibility while ensuring a better patient experience. 

Implants

The creation of implants may still be an ambitious goal for in-house 3D printers, but it’s worth noting that dental laboratories use this technology, at least in part, to create certain types of dental replacements. 

Let’s take a look at the two types of implants that 3D printing can assist with.

Dental

Creating implants is still extremely challenging, so creating in-house implants may not be an option. However, 3D printers are actively used to craft appliance frameworks and produce complex geometric shapes in implants created via milling.

OMF

In certain instances, 3D printers are also used to create oral and maxillofacial (OMF) implants. However,  milling processes are a better alternative as the geometric shapes are not usually as complex. It may still be best to work with dental labs in these cases, although this depends on the type of implant and its complexity. 

Product Design and the Manufacturing of Instruments

Dentists and other practitioners need to rely on ingenuity in order to be successful. 3D printers follow computer-aided design guidelines, which allows these professionals to create instruments, products, and tools in a shorter time span. 

How to Choose a 3D Printer for Your Dental Practice

Now that we’ve covered the applications of 3D printing for dental care let’s go over the different elements you should consider when choosing a printer for your practice. 

The technology powering 3D printers can vary tremendously and this is just one of the many differences you need to keep in mind. In this section, we’ll share the factors you should consider but remember to keep your practice’s requirements in mind to make the best decision. 

In addition to choosing the best printer, it’s also important to generate a base of recurring patients. Dental care programs like the ones available at Members can help you connect with your local community and create a predictable revenue stream. Contact Membersy to request demo or register now

With that said, here are a few tips to help you choose the best 3D printer for tooth treatments and other oral healthcare services.

Printing Technology

There are different types of 3D printer technology and each one has unique benefits and advantages. The two main types are stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP). Low Force Stereolithography (LFS) is another type of technology used, but this is considered the next phase of SLA. There is no formula to choose the best alternative, so you need to evaluate your requirements and make a decision based on the resources you have available. 

Accuracy and Precision

There is no set measurement to evaluate the precision and accuracy of a 3D printer. You need to look at the materials, design, laser technology, and similar technical specifications to determine how accurate a printer is. Now, it’s important to note that every manufacturer uses a unique approach to building this type of equipment. This means that it’s impossible to find the most accurate printer based solely on claims made by the manufacturer. 

Ease of Use

It’s important to understand that all providers provide basic training when you impactsa printer. You can then pass on this knowledge to the team members who will be in charge of 3D printing. However, you need to ensure that the equipment you purchase is relatively easy to use and that the instructions can be transmitted clearly from one operator to the next.  

Materials and Overall Cost

The materials that a 3D printer can use directly impact its versatility. Basic equipment only has the ability to produce diagnostic models. Highly-advanced printers, on the other hand, allow you to create digital dentures, retainers, splints, and even surgical guides that result in better treatment. It’s important to note that innovative printers are usually more powerful and advanced materials tend to have a higher price tag, both of which impact the overall treatment cost. 

Speed and Throughput Volume

SLA, LFS, and DLP models all have similar raw printing speeds, but their throughput can be drastically different. SLA and LFS printed carefully carve out each shape using a laser, so they take longer when printing large projects. DLP printers, on the other hand, perform faster when working on large parts but have a lower throughput than SLA and LFS when creating smaller elements. 

Conclusion

There is no doubt that 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the dental care industry, which is one of the reasons why this practice is becoming extremely popular. That said, you need to understand the different applications as well as the distinct features these machines can bring to make the best choice for your practice. 

If you want to find out more about joining one of Membersy’s dental care programs, get in touch with us today, and our team will be glad to help.