Ortho technology is a rapidly advancing area of the dental field, and we have 3D printing to thank for that. While 3D printing teeth products isn’t brand new as the technology has been in orthodontic labs for years, it’s being adapted more than traditional methods today. As general knowledge of the process has grown in the public, with some hobbyists even bringing the technology into their homes, the range of applications has expanded and become a mainstay in orthodontic labs everywhere.
What is 3D Printing?
Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is the process of producing a physical object via a three-dimensional digital model. This “printing” is done layer by layer using a variety of materials, including plastic, bio-materials, or a composite, depending upon the application. If you would like to learn more about what 3D printing is and its progression in the dental industry, check out our previous article for more details on what the technology is and the processes it entails.
How 3D Printing Impacts Ortho Technology Today
Since its inception in the 18th century, the dental industry has relied on artisans and technicians to create molds, crowns, and everything in between by hand or with minimal computer influence or assistance. Once 3D printing became accepted by multiple facets of the medical field, orthodontic labs started using the technology to print their own products, too.
How 3D Printing is Used in Orthodontic Labs
As more orthodontic labs adopt 3D printing and more tech companies explore the dental use and applications of this technology, we can expect to see more solutions and dental innovations come out as the industry advances. For now, here are some of the most common uses of 3D printing today:
3D Orthodontic Modeling
Before 3D printing, dental modeling was done through multiple attempts with clay or alginate impressions that were not only an uncomfortable experience for patients, but a messy process for dental technicians to manage. With 3D printing, the same three-dimensional intraoral scans that have become the new standard in dentistry are also used to generate the digital models that can be later referenced or turned into 3D printed models.
Arguably the most popular use of 3D printing in the dental industry is the recognizable removable aligner tray. With the introduction of companies like Invisalign and Smile Direct Club, the general public became familiar with these 3D printed plastic dental trays and the process involved in their custom, per-person creation. As more aligner companies come onto the market, each with their own take, the technology will continue to advance and grow in this application.
As many dentists and orthodontic labs alike can attest to, partial appliances are some of the most difficult things to create. While the process to create these typically relies on traditional methods, impressions, and scans, 3D printing enables labs to lean on high definition three-dimensional scans to create precise pieces instead. Whether a partial appliance relies on just a 3D-printed solution or combines metal and 3D printing, the technology vastly improves the production process for all involved.
How Beneficial is 3D Printing in Dentistry?
While other forms of ortho technology are still making advancements in their own respective ways, 3D printing has proven itself more beneficial than the original adopters may have expected. Now that the technology is being utilized in almost every medical field, the dental industry has used the growth of this tech to its advantage and passed on its benefits to patients across the globe.
Before 3D printing, manually crafted dental hardware was the norm, resulting in occasional contamination, wasted materials, and lost time in orthodontic labs. However, 3D printing teeth products generates more precise products, made in a safer environment, and at a higher volume. With this, dentists and orthodontists can expect faster turnaround times and provide their patients with a better, more convenient experience. If a client or dentist loses a crown or retainer, 3D printing allows orthodontic labs to expedite the replacement process much quicker than traditional methods, keeping patients on track with their oral health goals.
If you would like to learn more about 3D printing and how it’s being utilized in the dental industry and orthodontic labs, please feel free to contact our team at OrthoDenco Digital Orthodontic Laboratory. With over 35 years of experience and 400 active accounts, we have the experience, leading reputation, and innovative 3D printing equipment necessary to meet all of your dental practice’s needs. We are happy to be your trusted go-to orthodontic lab, so you can be there for your patients.