3D Printing and the Dental Industry

June 18th, 2018

While it was once a concept you would only see in science fiction films, 3D printing is now becoming more and more common. While it actually was a process that began in the 1980s, it is in the last decade or so that technology has really made 3D printing—or ‘Additive Manufacturing’ as it is more technically known—a truly limitless possibility. The concept works by printing layer upon layer with a relevant material and adding them to each other to make the finished object.

Three-dimensional printing is essentially the same concept as two-dimensional printing, the obvious difference being that rather than coming out with a flat image on a piece of paper, the end result is a solid object that can be used for a particular purpose. The technology is now so advanced that houses can be constructed from a 3D printer.

So, what does this all mean for the dental industry?

The way the technology works is by using a digital device (much like a magic wand) to create a three-dimensional image of a patient’s teeth and gums in a computer. This information can then be used to create a digital model of, for example, a tooth that needs to be replaced. The tooth is then ‘printed’ via the 3D printer.

It is also a similar process for other dental items like full orthodontic models, and other dental requirements like crowns, bridges, arches and dental caps.

In fact, 3D printing technology is expected to be so revolutionary that the market opportunity for it is predicted to reach $9.5 billion by 2027. When you look at how rapidly the innovations are coming, it is easy to see that the future of dentistry is certainly looking more than one-dimensional.