3D printing in dentistry: Future-proof technology?
LOS ANGELES, U.S.: Technological advancements in dentistry are like a motor force that drives innovation and growth. This is true for digital dentistry. Digital technology continues to advance dentistry, and although not everyone has embraced this technological evolution, most dental professionals would agree that going digital is the way forward. For one thing, the benefits of 3D printing in dentistry are plentiful. It allows dental professionals to stay up to date and is more cost-efficient compared with analog methods. There are constant software updates, frequent launches of new dental materials and rapidly evolving applications in dentistry.
Most dental professionals are already using the technology of the future today. 3D printing can significantly improve the workflow in any dental practice or laboratory and can drastically reduce patient chair time. It offers flexibility in product customization and superior quality and accuracy in 3D-printed dental models. Although it was once unimaginable, dental professionals can now print occlusal splints and other dental models in-house in only a day. This not only helps to generate profit but also facilitates dental treatment.
“More and more dental practices and laboratories invest in a 3D printer because it is affordable and accessible. It is the type of tool that empowers dental professionals and makes them more confident in tackling their daily challenges,” Rudy Labor, sales and application specialist for orthodontics at SprintRay, a technology company that builds end-to-end 3D-printing ecosystems for dental professionals, told Dental Tribune International (DTI).
With 3D printing, there is always a place for continued development. Every software release or update enhances the hardware and offers new and exciting features. There are constant innovations in 3D-printing materials to provide users with a growing list of indications, and 3D printing can be easily integrated into the workflow of any dental practice or laboratory.
In discussing how 3D printing is the future of dentistry, Labor highlighted the significant role of those working behind the scene to make 3D printing a leading-edge technology. He stated: “What makes 3D printing the technology of the future is the commitment of the professionals who work tirelessly to improve and elaborate the existing printing techniques and to explore and exploit new possibilities. As far as SprintRay is concerned, 3D printing will be future-proof.”
3D-printing applications in dentistry
Some of the 3D-printing technologies that are currently available and used in the dental industry include digital light processing, selective laser melting, stereolithography and fused deposition modeling. All areas of dentistry are covered by 3D printing, including printed study models, surgical guides, metal frameworks, dental prostheses, temporary crowns and bridges, permanent restorations, occlusal splints, aligners, and removable dentures.
Prof. Markus Blatz, who is chair of the Department of Preventive and Restorative Sciences and assistant dean for digital innovation and professional development at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia, U.S., previously told DTI that he believes 3D printing to be the future of restoration fabrication in dental laboratory technology and that it is likely to be used for all types of materials and restorations.
In a previous interview with DTI, prosthodontist Dr. Ryan C. Lewis noted: “3D printing has changed the way that we produce surgical guides. 3D printers have become so accurate and inexpensive that any dentist can now afford to have them in his or her office and print surgical guides as well as casts for diagnostic purposes or aligners at a relatively low cost.” He added that going back to traditional dentistry would have a significant impact on costs, efficiency, quality of work, and ability to communicate with surgeons and dental technicians.
The advantages of 3D printing over CAD/CAM technology
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, consists of adding material. In contrast, milling is a method that involves subtracting material. Labor told DTI that additive manufacturing is more cost-effective than subtractive computer-aided manufacturing and explained that it produces less waste. Additionally, 3D printing is highly accurate, faster for many indications and offers increased production efficiency since the user can produce printable solutions in volume.
Finally, Labor stated that additive manufacturing boasts consistency, which is crucial for successful product fabrication. He explained: “3D-printing technology has proved to be more accurate and more consistent in replicating consistency when mass-producing. When using the analog way of fabricating dental apparatus, you can never replicate a process with exactitude, and we all know how important consistency is in production.”
Investing in new technology is a way of reaching and establishing high standards of patient care. As Patrick Thurm, the managing director and general manager for Europe at SprintRay. noted, dentists and laboratories are currently seeking efficient solutions for their practices and their patients post-pandemic, and a 3D printer, such as the one from SprintRay, could be a great asset to dental practices, laboratories and patients.