How 3D Printing is Making Waves in the Dental Industry
Will your next cosmetic dental work feature a 3D printed prosthetic? It may seem like science fiction, but 3D printed dental implants are looking more and more promising every day, which is good news to the 99% of Americans who believe a smile is a crucial social asset.
Finland is one of the world leaders in 3D printing for medical purposes, especially the field of cosmetic dental treatment. In fact, 3D printing is already a major part of the dental implant, crown and bridges industry.
Additionally, 3D printing cuts down on surgery times and complications by increasing precision and accuracy. Bioprinting has become especially popular in Finland, aiming to reproduce veins and skin for medical procedures instead of using live animals or transplants.
Hospitals in Finland are already connected to a supply chain that uses 3D printing for a variety of treatments, including implants for head and skull injuries.
The same technology can be used to print a perfect replica skull of a patient with a single radiologist visit before a major dental procedure. Scans are converted into CAD files, which are printed using gypsum-based composite or nylon.
This allows for the creation of perfect replicas of the patient’s unique teeth and the implant before a patient ever enters surgery, and can be used to fit implants as well.
Finland’s not the only place where dental 3D printing is taking off. Gloucestershire-based company Renishaw saw a surge in profits recently for its metal 3D printing equipment, which is used largely for creating implants for cosmetic dental procedures and maxillofacial surgery (implants are usually made of titanium).
This past July, a team of South African doctors at the Kimberly Hospital were able to successfully replace jawbones with 3D printed titanium in only the second or third procedure of its kind. One patient’s jaw was disfigured by cancer and the other patient had broken their steel implant.
The jaws were created using laser sintering, which fires lasers into a bowl of titanium dust to create a 3D sculpt. It may seem like incorporating this hi-tech process would result in higher dental implant costs, but laser sintering for cosmetic dental work actually costs around 20% of the price of traditional implants due to the smaller amount of material waste. That means 3D printers could recoup their initial costs in only a few uses.
You may not be able to find dentists in your area that are using 3D printers for cosmetic dental work yet, but give it time. They may be on their way sooner than you think!