3D Printing has come a long way over the last few decades. As the advancements in the technology have evolved, 3D Printing is becoming increasingly more common in everyday life. It has been used to create life-saving prosthetic limbs for decades and, more recently, has become a low-cost solution to many other manufacturing processes.
Along with prosthetic limbs, manufactured parts and all sorts of knick knacks, 3D printing has also had a significant impact on dental supplies. And, when it comes to dental prosthesis, milled dentures have been the only option for dentists and their patients for nearly a century. With the advent of 3D printing, other options are now available.
History of 3D Printing
The first documented instance of 3D printing can be traced back to the early 1980s in Japan. In 1988, the first commercial rapid prototyping printer (SLA-1) was introduced by 3D Systems. The 1990s experienced a great deal of growth in the 3D Printing industry, with new companies being created and new additive manufacturing being explored. Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine 3D prints first organ for transplant – a lab-grown bladder.
The 2000s ushered in open-source 3D printing processes which led to the creation of several new 3D Printers. Then, in 2008, the first commercially available 3D printer called “Darwin” is introduced to the world. Then, in 2009, the FDM patent held by Stratasys expires and the average FDM 3D printer price dropped from $10,00 to under $1,000. In the late 2010s new materials are created for printing things like tissue cartilage and all kinds of other textures. Check out this infographic on the history of 3D printing.
3D Printer Progression Into Dentistry
Although 3D printing for dental professionals began in 1971 as digital dentistry, dental 3D printing and additive manufacturing dental implants have been in development since the 1990s. That is when 3D printing began to be used for reference materials for surgeries. By 1999, advancements in the technology allowed for the construction of custom implants.
Making the construction of custom implants required the use of an intraoral scanner (IOS). As you probably know, the IOS is used to scan the patient’s teeth, allowing for the design of exact replicas for necessary replacements. Biologically compatible implants have been in production since 2017. These technological advancements with 3D printing in dentistry has improved many aspects of the dental restoration process, including (but not limited to):
- Decrease in chair time for patient and dentist.
- Less appointments with patient.
- Quicker turnaround times.
- Easier ability to archive digital impressions for future reference.
- More accurate restorations.
- Improved results and patient satisfaction.
3D Printing’s Future in Dentistry
Current 3D printing technologies are fully capable of delivering the significant demand for temporary, transitional, and permanent restorations (both direct and indirect), as well as appliances, and achieving the exacting clinical excellence required by the dental profession. In the future, printing teeth will be the norm and all other restorations will begin to fade away.
The immediate applications of 3D printing in dentistry include:
- Permanent and provisional indirect restorations (crowns, onlays, inlays, bridges and permanent, custom restorations fabricated chairside.
- Full and partial dentures with digital 3D occlusal design.
- Surgical guides for ideal implant positioning and custom 3D printed bone grafts.
- Orthodontic aligners printed with CBCT data and AI extrapolation of tooth movement over time.
- Printed periodontal guides that relieve and retract gingival margins.
- Soft tissue printing is currently in the research phase.
- Plus, many more.
If you’re interested in purchasing a 3D printer for your lab, here is a review of many popular dental 3D printers for a good comparison.