How 3-D Printing is making Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry more Efficient
3-D printing is a modern technology revolutionizing the way many industries visualize and create. 3-D printing is the process by which a digital image is scanned into a computer and then printed using materials such as resin to create a three-dimensional functional object.
One field making tremendous strides using this innovation is Cosmetic Dentistry, and as it turns out the possible applications are nearly endless.
As this technology continues to advance, the use of 3-D dental printers is creating a much more efficient experience at the dentist.
Someday, soon, cosmetic procedures such as veneers, crowns, inlays, and even custom clear aligners are likely to be created and applied in just one visit. In some large dental practices and labs, these 3-D printers are already in use, creating dental models, night guards, and even smile straightening aligners, but the machinery is currently cost prohibitive to most.
As the technology and production behind these machines improve, they are likely to become a fixture in most dental practices, making many same-day procedures possible, even root canals and crown placements.
3-D Printing and Cosmetic Dentistry
These technologically advanced machines can print highly accurate models of a patient’s mouth. An oral digital scanner is used to create a computer model, which is then used by the 3-D printer to build a replica of the mouth.
These models accurately capture everything from the gum line, to how the top and bottom align with each other. These printed replicas can then be used to create treatment plans in the office. Combining the computer programs with 3-D printing capabilities make it possible for a dentist to not only plan treatment but then even create the necessary implements that day.
Cosmetically, this could mean a patient unhappy with the gap in his or her front teeth, could walk out with beautiful veneers applied the same day. Another new application is to create and print surgical guides to plan and assist with surgical cosmetic procedures such as dental implants. This allows the surgeon to more precisely and efficiently place implants.
Printed Dental Impressions – Oral Digital Scanner
One significant way this innovation has made cosmetic dentistry far more efficient is through the creation of printed dental impressions using an oral digital scanner. This quick process is much more efficient than the typical plaster impression method currently used at most dentists. A tray of wet plaster is inserted into the mouth to create an impression. Once dry, these plaster molds are typically shipped or delivered to a dental lab and used to create crowns, veneers, etc. The newly created product must then be transported back to the dentist, and then fitted at a follow-up appointment.
The current method can cause these cosmetic procedures to take up to weeks to complete. In addition to the length of the process, these plaster impressions of the teeth are not always accurate and can result in crowns or aligners that just don’t fit quite right and require shaping. The precise technology of 3-D printing helps to ensure a perfect fit the first time. In the future, a dentist with 3-D printing technology could scan a patient’s mouth, create a model to formulate a plan, and then even the print perfect veneers to be applied in the same appointment.
New research and innovation continue to make the use of 3-D printing in Cosmetic Dentistry a more accessible technology to all. As the cost to produce these printers is reduced, more dentists will be able to provide long-lasting and beautiful cosmetic results that are quick and easy to achieve in office. Waiting weeks for a crown, or veneers, will soon be a thing of the past.