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What Is 3D Dental Printing?

how does 3D dental printing work

What Is Dental 3D Printing?

Dental 3D printing is set to transform dentistry worldwide, with its reach spanning almost every aspect of the profession, from the design and production of dentures and implants to Invisalign braces. The immense value and potential of a 3D printing system for dental labs and surgeries lie in the fact that every aspect of dentistry is entirely reliant on creating unique, custom-made objects at each stage of the process to fit an individual’s mouth. 3D printing for the dental industry offers the opportunity to do that in a timely fashion and at affordable costs, both for the dental practice and the patient.

So, what is 3D printing, how does the technology work, what are the specific benefits for dentists and where does the future lie? In this article, the team at Solid Print Dental will give a broad overview of the technology.

3D dental printing is set to transform dentistry worldwide, with its reach spanning almost every aspect of the profession, from the design and production of dentures and implants to Invisalign braces. The immense value and potential of a 3D printing system for dental labs and surgeries lie in the fact that every aspect of dentistry is entirely reliant on creating unique, custom-made objects at each stage of the process to fit an individual’s mouth. 3D printing for the dental industry offers the opportunity to do that in a timely fashion and at affordable costs, both for the dental practice and the patient.

So, what is 3D printing, how does the technology work, what are the specific benefits for dentists and where does the future lie? In this article, the team at 3D Dental will give a broad overview of the technology.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

How Does 3D Printing Work?

Leaving dentistry aside for a moment, we’ll first look at how 3D printing works on a macro level. If you take a closer look at what a home inkjet printer does, you’ll see it lays down ink on the page surface rather than embedding it within the paper itself. Theoretically, if you repeated the identical printing on the same page over and over again, that would build up layer after layer of ink on each letter until each one became a raised 3D image, rather than a flat one. That’s essentially how the first 3D printers worked: building up an image by increments.

A dental 3D printer, or any other 3D printer, starts with an object designed on a computer, broken down into hundreds of thousands of two-dimensional cross-sectional layers. These are then printed and stuck together to form a solid, three-dimensional object. But rather than use ink, the printer lays down layers of molten powder or plastic and then fuses each of these together, either with a form of adhesive or by means of ultraviolet light. This method is known as fused depositional modelling (FDM).

Leaving dentistry aside for a moment, we’ll first look at how 3D printing works on a macro level. If you take a closer look at what a home inkjet printer does, you’ll see it lays down ink on the page surface rather than embedding it within the paper itself. Theoretically, if you repeated the identical printing on the same page over and over again, that would build up layer after layer of ink on each letter until each one became a raised 3D image, rather than a flat one. That’s essentially how the first 3D printers worked: building up an image by increments.

why get 3D dental printing

A 3D dental printer, or any other 3D printer, starts with an object designed on a computer, broken down into hundreds of thousands of two-dimensional cross-sectional layers. These are then printed and stuck together to form a solid, three-dimensional object. But rather than use ink, the printer lays down layers of molten powder or plastic and then fuses each of these together, either with a form of adhesive or by means of ultraviolet light. This method is known as fused depositional modelling (FDM).

Example Uses Of 3D Printing For Dentistry

As noted, there are a host of uses for 3D printing in dentistry. Just a few of these are as follows:

  • Creating orthodontic models for treatment: if you’ve ever had braces or a bridge fitted, the process has probably involved biting down a sticky, soft type of clay which is then left to harden into a mould, then sent to a lab that designs the right appliance for your mouth. The process can be much simpler and quicker with 3D printing. Your dentist will scan the inside of your mouth with a digital wand, which transmits the information gathered to a computer. Specialist software allows the dentist to design the required orthodontic appliance and even print the end result on-site.
  • Repair or replacement of a damaged tooth: again, the patient’s teeth and gums are scanned and then the broken or missing tooth is digitally recreated on a pc via computer-aided design. Finally, it can be printed in-house.
  • Production of dentures, crowns, caps, as well as surgical tools: any kind of implant or appliance can be recreated or designed from scratch to suit each individual patient’s mouth. This technology can also handle the 3D printing required to produce highly accurate tools, such as drill guides, to be used in typical dental procedures. The only difference is the material used for each application.

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The Benefits Of Dental 
3D Printing

At Solid Print Dental, we know that one of the primary benefits to dentists and patients alike is that the use of 3D printing in dentistry has the potential to save a great deal of money. Whether a dental practice establishes its own in-house dental laboratory or has a contract with an external provider, there’s a significant financial outlay involved in using a dedicated laboratory to construct everyday dental appliances and implants. Of course, with 3D printing, there is an initial outlay for the equipment needed, as well as ongoing costs for consumables, but as the market grows and technology improves, capital costs are reducing all the time. And because 3D printing is additive rather than subtractive in the way it works, there is less waste of materials too.

At 3D Dental, we know that one of the primary benefits to dentists and patients alike is that the use of 3D printing in dentistry has the potential to save a great deal of money. 

Whether a dental practice establishes its own in-house dental laboratory or has a contract with an external provider, there’s a significant financial outlay involved in using a dedicated laboratory to construct everyday dental appliances and implants. Of course, with 3D printing, there is an initial outlay for the equipment needed, as well as ongoing costs for consumables, but as the market grows and technology improves, capital costs are reducing all the time. And because 3D printing is additive rather than subtractive in the way it works, there is less waste of materials too.

When dentists save money, their patients will too. After all, the patients’ bills for dental work must reflect the cost of running or using a dental laboratory. If that’s taken out of the equation, these savings can be passed onto dentists’ clients.

The other major benefit is that 3D printing is time-saving. Where previously, models and prosthetics had to be made by hand, now a printer can be set up and left to print multiple appliances quickly and without human intervention. Accuracy is another strong positive in 3D printing’s favour. Modern 3D printers achieve extremely high levels of accuracy, meaning a better fit the first time.

Challenges For 3D Printing

As mentioned above, one of the main challenges in 3D dental printing is in the resins these professionals use. They must be extremely high quality and are subject to approval by local health authorities wherever they are used. This can mean that some of the best resins are not always immediately available to dentists in particular jurisdictions.

Also, although very high quality is being achieved in resins in many respects, even the best cannot yet match up to the aesthetics of a ceramic replacement tooth, which has a certain translucency and can be coloured to match each individual’s mouth. But work is in progress in these areas.

As mentioned above, one of the main challenges in 3D dental printings is in the resins these professionals use. They must be extremely high quality and are subject to approval by local health authorities wherever they are used.

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This can mean that some of the best resins are not always immediately available to dentists in particular jurisdictions.

Also, although very high quality is being achieved in resins in many respects, even the best cannot yet match up to the aesthetics of a ceramic replacement tooth, which has a certain translucency and can be coloured to match each individual’s mouth. But work is in progress in these areas.

Finally, the initial investment in the equipment required, both hardware and software, may still be prohibitive for some smaller dentists’ surgeries. But as in most areas, the dental 3D printer price will inevitably come down as technology improves and adoption of it becomes more widespread.

If you are interested in finding out more about 3D printing for dentistry solutions, why not contact the team here at Solid Print Dental today?

All New 
High-Detailed 3D Dental Printers

Form 3BL

Form 3BL

The Form 3BL is the large format 3D printer that raises the bar for dependable high-production printing, designed to work day and night with minimal intervention.

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Form 3B

Form 3B

An easy-to-use and fast solution for your orthodontic practice or lab to produce aligners and retainers in-house with little initial investment.

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Form Wash & Cure

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Automated Post-Processing Saves Time and Effort

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Formlabs Dental 3D Printer: Cost-effective, fast and easy to use

View the video to see an overview of the capabilities of Formlabs dental printers.

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A Simple and Consistent Workflow

From initial scanning to post processing and patient treatment, our 3D printing and scanning solutions offer ease of use and outstanding patient outcomes.

1. Scan

2. Design

3. Print

4. Post-Process

5. Treat

Why Formlabs?

Print quality

Formlabs 3D printers use stereolithography (SLA) technology rather than Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). SLA is capable of offering far higher levels of accuracy and resolution than FDM when used for the creation of 3D printed models.

Build volume

Superior build volume allows for the creation of larger models. The Form 2 has a build volume of 14.5 × 14.5 × 17.5 cm (5.7 × 5.7 × 6.9 in). The Form 3 uses the same build platform, but can lift it slightly higher, for a build volume of 14.5 × 14.5 × 18.5 cm (5.7 × 5.7 × 7.3 in).

Dental 3D software

Easy to navigate, easy to use, our dental 3D software is compatible and integrates with 3Shape and ExoCAD, as well as all dental CAD software tools that support STL export.

Reliability

Fast, accurate and consistent results throughout for a smoother workflow and increased patient satisfaction.

Dental Demands More

We offer a  wide and ever-growing range of materials to work with.

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Frequently Asked 
Questions

Here, you'll find answers to the most common questions we are asked. If your question isn't answered here, contact us.
   01926 333 796   info@3ddental.uk
How is 3D printing used in dentistry?
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3D printing can be used in dentistry to create physical models for surgery, prosthodontics and orthodontics; to produce a dental imprint for dental, craniomaxillofacial and orthopaedic use; to develop drill guides for dental implants; and to fabricate the copings and frameworks needed for dental restorations and implants.
What is a dental 3D printer?
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Dental resin 3D printing incorporates a laser or other form of light that causes a liquid substance to combine to form a polymer. The printer uses computer-aided design to shape the polymer with the intricate detail required to form an individual object, such as a dental implant, a bridge or a crown. 
What are 3D printed teeth made of?
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Broadly, dental 3D printing materials used to manufacture teeth include a methacrylate-based photopolymerised resin which is processed and cured during printing. Different grades of resin have different product-specific qualities depending on their end use. So you may require a different type of resin to build a surgical guide than for veneers or a replacement bridge, for instance.
How are teeth 3D printed?
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There are two broad types of three-dimensional printing in dentistry: stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP). In the former, liquid resin is solidified selectively in specific areas when exposed to a laser beam to create an accurate model.  DLP uses the same chemical process, but it’s a digital projector that solidifies the resin rather than a laser.
Is 3D printing used in dentistry?
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Increasingly, 3D printing in dentistry is revolutionising the industry with the global market forecast to be worth 12.46 billion US dollars by 2028. The primary demand is in the field of cosmetic dentistry, which is being met as technology improves the high precision and ease of reproduction of even the most intricate dental parts; and equipment and materials become increasingly affordable.
How long do 3D printed prosthetics last?
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The average lifespan of a 3D printed prosthetic limb, for instance, is estimated to be around five years. In terms of 3D printing of dental retainers or teeth, say, their lifespan will depend to a large extent on the material used how the patient looks after them. However, advances in the technology involved are being made almost daily.

How 3D Printing Is Changing Dentistry

where to find affordable 3D dental printing in the uk

How 3D Printing Is Changing Dentistry

As in most industries, 3D printing for dental labs and surgeries is proving revolutionary in the industry. It’s been used in the dental industry worldwide for around two decades now. But improvements in technology and the increasing affordability of the equipment are two factors making 3D printing more accessible to individual dental practices.

Alongside the 3D printer, dentists must also invest in a 3D intraoral scanner. This financial outlay was a barrier for many practices. But as prices reduce and the technology improves and becomes easier to use, greater numbers of dentists are entering the field. Materials are becoming more sophisticated too. Initially, 3D printing was only used for created guides, moulds and so on. But in the near future, crowns and even replacement teeth will be printed and fitted on-site by your dentist while you wait.

As in most industries, 3D printing for dental labs and surgeries is proving revolutionary in the industry. It’s been used in the dental industry worldwide for around two decades now. But improvements in technology and the increasing affordability of the equipment are two factors making 3D printing more accessible to individual dental practices.

Alongside the 3D printer, dentists must also invest in a 3D intraoral scanner. This financial outlay was a barrier for many practices. But as prices reduce and the technology improves and becomes easier to use, greater numbers of dentists are entering the field. Materials are becoming more sophisticated too. Initially, 3D printing was only used for created guides, moulds and so on. But in the near future, crowns and even replacement teeth will be printed and fitted on-site by your dentist while you wait.

The Latest Advance In 3D Printing: Replacement Teeth

In 2015, Dutch researchers were working on creating an antimicrobial plastic 3D printed tooth that was capable of destroying bacteria on contact, offering hope of decay-free teeth in future.

The issue facing them was not the technology required to print the tooth but the material to add to the printer. They added antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts to an existing dental resin polymer and then used UV light to harden the mix. While lab testing found that over 99% of bacteria was destroyed, the artificial tooth had yet to be tested in real-life conditions in a human mouth. Nor was it clear how it would stand up to everyday use and brushing.

In 2015, Dutch researchers were working on creating an antimicrobial plastic 3D printed tooth that was capable of destroying bacteria on contact, offering hope of decay-free teeth in future.

3D Print Image 4

The issue facing them was not the technology required to print the tooth but the material to add to the printer. They added antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts to an existing dental resin polymer and then used UV light to harden the mix. While lab testing found that over 99% of bacteria was destroyed, the artificial tooth had yet to be tested in real-life conditions in a human mouth. Nor was it clear how it would stand up to everyday use and brushing.

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A Review Of 3D Printing In Dentistry: Technologies, Affecting Factors, And Applications

When it comes to 3D printing for prosthodontics, 3D printers use CAD (computer-aided design) digital models to replicate 3D objects in accurate detail automatically. Widely used in the design and manufacturing industries, among others, 3D printing offers a wealth of possibilities for all aspects of dentistry, from oral implantology and orthodontics to oral and maxillofacial surgery.

When it comes to 3D printing for prosthodontics, 3D printers use CAD (computer-aided design) digital models to replicate 3D objects in accurate detail automatically. Widely used in the design and manufacturing industries, among others, 3D printing offers a wealth of possibilities for all aspects of dentistry, from oral implantology and orthodontics to oral and maxillofacial surgery.

The benefits of a 3D dental impression include the accuracy of the object being replicated where the need for fine detail is paramount and significantly less material waste in processing. Current disadvantages are the high cost of equipment and consumables; and the time needed for postprocessing. But 3D printing is expected to revolutionise the dental industry over time.

3D Printing In Dentistry

While the technology for 3D printing in the dental industry has the potential to transform the field, offering attractive advantages for diagnosis, treatment and education, more research and funding is required to fully reap the benefits.

Current tech for 3D printing in orthodontics and other aspects of dentistry include stereolithography, digital light processing and photopolymer jetting to create end products. However, the processes involved are still expensive to undertake. The products printed have a limited shelf life, and there are issues around heat sterilising them.

Selective laser sintering is another technique through which objects can be printed from metals and polymers. However, the equipment itself and its maintenance costs are prohibitively expensive, and the process carries a number of risks such as explosion and dust inhalation.

If you are interested in the best 3D printer for dentistry or in finding out more about what 3D printing could do for your practice, get in touch with us today. We are always happy to elaborate on our services and advise on how you can get started.

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