How 3D Printing has Revolutionized the Dental Industry?
3D printed has impacted virtually every field of life - from the automobile industry to aviation and human health. However, unlike other industries, the dental field has been slow to join the 3D printing bandwagon. This was mainly because of the heavy investment required for buying 3D printers, which were unaffordable for small to medium-sized dental offices.
But thankfully, the rapid advancement in 3D printing technology has now allowed for the use of desktop 3D printers, which are less space-consuming and cost-effective than their predecessors. As a result, dentists worldwide are investing in this technology which has significantly impacted various aspects of human life. As a result, it has been estimated that the current value of the dental 3D printing market in 2022 exceeds USD 3.2 billion - and it is expected to reach USD 7.9 billion by the year 2027.
So, what is so special about 3D printing technology that has intrigued the interest of dental professionals? The answer is simple: its precision, time-saving and superior esthetic outcome compared to the conventional dental fabrication procedures. Let us look at how 3D printing has revolutionised the dental healthcare industry.
Improved Product Quality
Dental prostheses such as ceramic crowns or veneers are conventionally fabricated in the laboratory. However, no matter how meticulously a dental technician is, some structural defects always remain in the prostheses, affecting their precision, durability and aesthetics. With the advent of 3D printing technology, the prosthesis is digitally designed using a digital impression of the patient’s prepared teeth and then fabricated in a layer-by-layer fashion. This eliminates structural defects and offers a precisely fitting and aesthetically pleasing dental prosthesis which lasts considerably longer.
Dental prostheses prepared using conventional procedures were time-consuming. Patients often had to wait for many days, even weeks, to get their crowns or bridges fabricated and then attached to their teeth. 3D printing has solved this problem as dental restorations, and prostheses like veneers, crowns, retainers, or dentures can now be digitally designed and fabricated at the dental chairside - and that too in a matter of a few hours. In addition, 3D printing technology has enabled dentists to offer same-day smile makeovers as they can prepare prostheses and restore damaged teeth in less than a day.
Better Patient Experience
With 3D printers, patients can now visualise precisely how their teeth will look once their smile makeover treatment is completed. Before fabricating the prosthesis with the 3D printers, your dentist will prepare its digital design using specialised software. As a result, patients will know what to expect from their esthetic makeover procedures and won’t have any surprises afterwards.
The 3D printing technology is not just beneficial for the patients and equally helpful for dental professionals. For example, the cost of running a dental laboratory is around £80,000 annually. So even if a dental practice has hired a dental laboratory to fabricate their prostheses, the prices are still very high.
On the other hand, the initial investment required for owning a modern-day, top-model dental 3D printer is around £20,000. Although the cost of raw materials also factors into the lifetime costs, these expenses are still lower than running or partnering with a dental laboratory. So, by investing in a decent 3D printer, dentists can fabricate most of their prostheses at the dental chairside at a considerably lower cost than in dental laboratories.
Improved Patient Safety
The 3D printing technology is dependent on the digitisation of dental workflow. For example, preparing veneers requires making digital impressions of your teeth that are fed into a special software for their design and ultimate fabrication. This has minimised the use of impression trays, a potential cross-contamination source. Similarly, since prostheses are digitally designed, there is no need to prepare wax patterns and study models, which can also potentially cause cross-contamination. Hence, 3D printing technology has made dental treatment much safer for patients and dental professionals.
3D printing is the future of dentistry - and it is here to stay for a long time. If you are a dental professional, this might be the right time to consider investing in a 3D printer for your practice and keep abreast with the latest trends. Conversely, if you’re a dental patient, visiting a 3D printer-equipped dental office might be a good idea as they offer a more precise, safer, and aesthetically pleasing treatment outcome than other practices.
How 3D Printing has Revolutionized the Dental Industry written by Dr Mehmood Asghar
Dr Mehmood Asghar is a dentist by profession and an Assistant Professor of Dental Biomaterials at the National University of Medical Sciences, Pakistan. Dr Asghar received his undergraduate and postgraduate dental qualifications from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). He has recently obtained a PhD in Restorative Dentistry from Malaysia. Dr Asghar has published several articles in international, peer-reviewed journals.