It’s 4 in the afternoon. Your dental implant has cracked. Nothing’s fallen off, but there’s a large crack that’s visible when you smile. You have a very important meeting early in the morning the next day. What are your options?
It’s a nightmare situation.
We place such high value on the appearance of our teeth. We’re willing to spend thousands of dollars to make our teeth straight, white – in a word, perfect. So what happens when something goes wrong at the last minute? In this scenario, it seems like the only thing you could do is go to the dentist and order a new implant. After all, it’s already late in the day. Spend your meeting with a tight-lipped smile. Isn’t there anything more efficient?
Thankfully, yes. It looks as though 3D printing is poised to change the pace that dentists can work. 3D printing allows for extremely high quality, high precision 3D models to be made quickly, and in this nightmare scenario, 3D printing might just be the only way out.
Visualize it: You call your dentist. On your way to their office, they pull up your files, and they print you another implant.They print you another tooth. It almost seems too good to be true. You come in, your old implant is extracted, and your new implant is screwed in. Crisis averted. You pay and you’re on your way home.
3D printing is the process in which three-dimensional objects are literally ‘printed out’, layer by layer, until an object is formed. Using this process, 3D printing is able to achieve unbelievable levels of accuracy and complexity. In the past, the biggest obstacle to 3D printing was the cost, and in a sense, for a lot of industries, it still is. But dentistry seems perfect for 3D printing. With the advent of more affordable, high quality 3D printers comes a higher ROI for businesses. And 3D printing offers accuracy and precision that is nearly unheard of for the amount of time it takes to produce the 3D objects it creates.
Currently, dental implants and dentures are made by using a milling machine to cut them out of a solid block of polymer, which isn’t always entirely accurate, and certainly not very fast.
A dentist who is able to print new teeth on-site, on-demand is surely ahead of the competition, and as the technology becomes more widely available, this practice might not seem so futuristic. If anything, it’s the first step towards something even bigger. Printed body parts (bones, and maybe even organs) using biocomposite material might be the next step. But for now, it’s teeth.
The advent of 3D printing in dentistry looks like it might revolutionize dentistry.