Thanks to advances in 3D printing technologies, additive manufacturing is becoming a staple technology in the field of dentistry — both in dental practices via “chair-side” 3D printing and in off-site dental laboratories for more demanding print jobs.
Dental practices and laboratories can today use 3D printers for a wide variety of applications, from the printing of models to make thermoset dental aligners, to the direct 3D printing of full dentures. Not only does this make life easier for dental professionals, but it also results in tangible benefits for patients: tailored dental solutions are now more effective and affordable than ever.
This guide looks at some of the most important applications of 3D printing in dentistry.
The dental 3D printing application with the biggest popular impact is, by some distance, 3D printed models for the creation of patient-specific dental aligners. Dental solutions like Invisalign use resin 3D printers to fabricate accurate models of a patient’s teeth, and these models are then used to make clear aligners.
An example of direct printing is the 3D printing of full dentures: removable plastic frames fitted with full sets of teeth, given to patients with no remaining teeth of their own. Dentures are usually printed in two stages: the base, which touches the patient’s gums, should be made from a softer resin than the teeth, which need to be rigid and strong.
Most surgical guides are designed using 3D scan data, which is then configured into a suitable CAD design. The digital guide design is printed, then polished, and finished so it is ready for oral use.
3D printing can be used for the direct fabrication of 3D printed full arch models or crown and bridge models with removable dies. Such models allow dentists to plan denture restorations and other procedures.
Scans are obtained from a patient’s mouth, then turned into a CAD file. Dental-specific CAD applications allow for the automatic creation of removable dies within the software.