3D Printing: The Future of Dentistry?
When you think of going to the dentist, the only printing you might think of is for patient forms. However, with the introduction of 3D Printing technology into dentistry, it may soon become possible for your doctor to “print” you a new tooth, dentures, or retainer while you wait!
3D Printing is a burgeoning technology that allows users to enter digital information into a special printer to produce 3D models based on exact specifications. The technology has already been found to be incredibly useful in various fields, including healthcare, but it is expected that over the next decade it will become widely adopted by dentists to treat patients with more efficiency than ever.
3D Printing is already used in dentistry, but due to the high cost and large size of 3D printers, it has been limited to larger labs that have the budget and volume to make them feasible. These printers are primarily used to create highly accurate models of a patient’s teeth and mouth to assist in treatment planning.
As the technology continues to advance, however, 3D printers will get smaller, faster, and cheaper, making it viable for dentists to start using them right in their offices. There are already several 3D printers created specifically for dentists. Those using them are finding they save time and expense by allowing them to “print” models and surgical guides onsite that they once had to send out to a lab.
While the actual printing of teeth seems far-fetched, it seems to be where the technology is headed. Resins and other materials are being developed for use in 3D Printing that allows for the creation of safe, long-lasting replacement teeth, crowns, veneers, inlays, etc. Not to mention other dental appliances like custom clear aligners and retainers!
Imagine a future where impressions of your teeth are no longer taken using a messy paste and you don’t have to wait for models to be sent out to labs to be created. Instead, you’re “impression” will be taken with a digital oral scanner (already available!) and fed into a desktop 3D printer in your dentist’s office that prints out an exact model of your mouth in minutes. After using that model to develop a treatment plan, that same printer could even print out your new partial denture, retainer, implant, etc.
Seem like science fiction? Believe it or not, this scenario is coming sooner than you think!