In 1983, when Charles Hull printed a 3 dimensional object for the first time with a CAD file, little did he know that 3D printing will far reaching impact on areas he had not even heard of. The influence of 3D printing technology is not lost on any industry. The same is true for dentistry, especially cosmetic dentistry.
According to a report released by SmarTech, 3D printing which was worth $780 million in the dental market in 2015, is expected to become a $3.1 billion industry by the end of 2020. 3D printing technology is also expected to provide more than 60 percent of all dental production needs by 2025, and perhaps even more in certain areas such as dental modeling. Judging by sheer numbers, saying that 3D printing has changed the face of cosmetic dentistry would be an understatement. Not only is the technology quicker and more accurate, it is cost effective too.
The applications of the technology in the cosmetic dentistry industry are numerous. Here are a few of them:
Surgical guides: Surgical guides greatly help improve the accuracy of corrective procedures and gives immense confidence to the surgeons by predicting the outcomes. For example, by taking a 3D digital image of the implant site, doctors are now able to perform surgeries with ease and accuracy that was hitherto unknown. The guides are also a great educational tool for trainees.
Orthodontics: The most common use of 3D printing technology is in the Invisalign System where the patient teeth are digitally realigned to make a series of 3D printed models for construction of aligners. The patient will receive a new set of aligners every 2 weeks and the teeth will be re-positioned over a period of time. This technology saves time since the patient data set can be digitally saved, printed when needed and minimizes the physical storage requirement
Restorative dentistry: 3D printing can produce temporary crowns with greater accuracy than the conventional methods. Resins are commonly used material in 3D printing but it has shown some degree of shrinkage due to its mechanical and light activated polymerization properties. Hence 3D printable resins need further evaluation to be able to be widely used. However, the use of the technology in restorative procedures is not contested.
Prosthodontics: Owing to the complex shape of prosthetics required in dentistry, 3D printing has not yet been able to rise as a dependable technology for the job. Yet, numerous studies have shown that advances in SLM (Selective Laser Melting) and Robocasting as well as development of compatible materials are proving to be quite promising.
It is plainly evident that with the help of 3D Imaging and CAD/CAM Technology, 3D printing is in the forefront position hugely impacting on all aspects. One can create complex geometrical forms using a variety of materials from digital data in specific patients. With the increased use of intra-oral scanning systems, it is already being applied practically in orthodontics. As technology evolves, it is important for the dentist to be up-to-date with the advances. .3D printing sure is emerging to be promising. What with innate curiosity and creativity of the dentist, it makes this an extremely exciting time to be in the industry.