If you’ve experienced a dental disaster that requires the replacement of a tooth or teeth, you’ve probably gone a week (or more) with a gaping hole where your tooth/teeth used to be. Or you had a temporary denture in your mouth, which didn’t fit and wasn’t comfortable and probably fell out a few times during the weeks it took to get your replacement teeth made.
Happily those days will soon be over for many dental patients, thanks to 3D printing. More than 10 million crowns and bridges have already been 3D-printed, and dental technology is currently leading the way in a field that will soon include printing ofreplacement parts for nearly every health problem – from hip replacements to prosthetics, internal “splints” that will dissolve as the body repairs itself to complete exoskeletons for people who have muscular wasting conditions or paralysis.
But, meanwhile, back in the dentist’s chair …
Rather than sitting for minutes with a mouth full of cold, gooey mold-making material, your dentist will be able to scan the inside of your mouth in minutes. That data is then used to create a pattern which your dentist will probably tweak a bit for a perfect fit, before clicking a key and sending the tooth info to the in-house printer.
Most 3-D printers build an object by depositing layers of material, but dental printers remove material from a block of dental composite using a milling machine about the size of a largish-microwave oven.
The process is fast, and within an hour (for a crown) or just a bit longer for a partial denture you’ll be out the door with a big smile on your face.
That is, if your dentist can afford one of these setups, which currently cost about $100,000. Only 10% of dentists currently use 3D printing. Price of the machine and scanner is one issue, learning how to use the technology is another. It’s likely that tech-savvy dentists, or those who want to offer a new, valuable service to their patients, will adopt the technology quickly.
Others may opt to hire a lab technician to do the work in-house. Still others will continue to rely on their dental lab – the dentist may do the scan in-house but send the data to the lab by email or a file transfer service. It’s almost certain that dental labs will switch over to 3D soon, to remain competitive in time and pricing.
Dentures and crowns aren’t the only things that can be printed. Veneers, implants – even braces, can be produced with a printer.
3D printing may revolutionize dental fashion too. It’s a safe guess to assume that some will want teeth custom- tinted or perhaps even include small designs similar to tattoos.
Amazing, isn’t it? But we won’t need this technology soon, as dental scientists are working on methods that will enable us to regrow our own teeth using stem cells. At the moment experiments are being done on growing teeth outside of the body. It takes a few weeks to grow a tooth, which would then be implanted into the jaw. Eventually, perhaps, we’ll be able to produce a new tooth right in our mouths. But for now, and the next decade or so, 3D is the way to go.
Ready to experience the wonders of modern dentistry for yourself? We can’t promise you 3D printing, but we can promise you’ll spend less at the dentist with a dental savings plan. To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.