Not even a decade ago, the world of 3D printing in dentistry sounded a lot like science fiction. Today, you can walk into your dentist’s office and have your mouth scanned and get a completely customized device fit to your unique mouth printed from a computer. Although it’s still hard to believe how far technology has come, 3D printing is becoming more and more commonplace in the dental industry — streamlining treatments, saving costs and creating a better fit for patients.
The History of 3D Printing in Dentistry
Charles Hull is the first person credited as having successfully printed something in 3D in the early 1980s — and the first dental patient received a bridge printed over a decade later in 1999. Although the technology is older than you might have thought, its popularity in dentistry didn’t quite emerge until the mid-2000s, when the applications were still limited and the process was still time-consuming and costly. The 2010s saw more dentists adopting the technology, with a large surge in demand for digital dentistry toward the middle and end of the decade.
In recent years, however, more accessible and affordable technology has created higher demand for 3D printing equipment for dental practices, to create everything from implants to braces and aligners to tools. Older technology, such as injection molding, meant that if a crown or implant wasn’t a perfect fit, your dentist would have to redo the entire mold and model. With 3D printing, the model need only be redesigned in the software and reprinted, saving time, visits to the office and money.
3D printing in dentistry begins with a model of your mouth. Digital scanners, CT scans or other imaging is used to create a workable blueprint. Software is then used to model the thing to be printed, be it a replacement tooth or a special retainer to help ease mild sleep apnea. Once modeled, the object is printed. A variety of materials ranging from high-quality plastics to amalgams are used. The printed object is then placed into your mouth and adjustments are made to ensure a perfect fit.
Some dentists are able to do part or all of these processes in-house. With more and more technicians being trained in CAD (computer-aided design work), some dentists are able to image, design and print everything on-site. Other dentists must outsource some or all of the work to labs and companies that specialize in 3D printing.
The Future of 3D Printing in Dentistry
It’s hard to say what the future will bring for 3D printing, but it’s a safe bet to assume that the technology will become quicker, more precise and more streamlined. It may not be long before you can step into your dentist’s office and get a custom-fitted night guard that’s finished by the end of a routine cleaning, for example.
With more and more dentists jumping to adopt 3D printing, it’s best to ask questions and go with those who have been working with the technology for some time. Don’t be afraid to ask how long your dentist’s office has used digital dentistry technology, what the process looks like, what’s done in-house versus off-site and what their specialties are.
3D Printing in Our Office
The office of Drs. Krieger and Hur has opted to keep abreast of the latest trends and breakthroughs in 3D imaging and printing. Because technology changes quickly, the state-of-the-art technology we leverage to make your experience quick, painless and tailored to your life for a perfect fit is also always changing.
The best way to find out what we have to offer and how we can help is to give our office a call at (201) 560-0606 or send us an email by clicking here. We’ll answer any questions and be happy to book you for an appointment at your convenience.