Few people associate dentistry with innovation. The public image of long painful and boring sessions has diverted attention from significant innovation and exciting technological breakthroughs in the industry.
In recent years, dentistry has gone digital. 3D Printing and Scanning have elevated dentistry to new era of capabilities and product development. Technology now permits dentists to be digital architects and inventors.
“3D printing has recently captured the public imagination, but most 3D printers are churning out plastic junk,” says Andrew Dawood, who works in London’s Wimpole Street. “Dentists have been using 3D printing for 10 years, to make things that really can’t be made in any other way.”
Ultra-thin layers, down to six microns in length, can be printed on 3D printers, like Objet’s Eden lineup. Within the walls of Dawood & Tanner, the practice that Dawood runs with his wife Susan Tanner, are six 3D printers, making objects in many different types of plastic, resin, plaster or metal.
3D Printers are primarily utilized in dentistry to create accurate models of patients’ faces, jaws and teeth, to assist in planning and practicing procedures including implants and oral/facial surgery. Low dose X-rays produce a 3D image, typically from a computerized tomography (CT) scanner. CAD software then acts as the medium between the scans and a 3D printer.
“If we have an exact replica of the jaw, for example, it becomes far easier to plan the procedure, design implants and then practice before the patient comes in for surgery,” says Dawood.
Dentists can collaborate and prepare with other surgeons using a physical, 3D model that can be handled. With CT scans, it is not a generic model dentists work with – it is the actual patients’ figure.
“Our experience with the use of technology to assist ‘extreme cases’ enables us to make straightforward treatment even more straightforward, and for many patients, to make possible what was once considered to be impossible,” says Dawood.
These exciting new technologies enable improved surgeries and, incisions and time of completion and reduced patient discomfort. 3D Printing in dentistry makes complex processes more routine by speeding up timelines and streamlining effort.