It seems like only yesterday that the digital revolution transformed dentistry for the better. Implementation of digital technologies has led to even more interesting developments in the field, and today, innovative approaches such as the use of 3D printing are fast gaining traction.
But what are the benefits of 3D printing and should we be adopting this technology now?
In many ways, 3D printing is a lot more versatile than we would originally think.
Indeed, the variety of solutions that can be made using this approach is almost endless, and nowadays we can create anything from surgical guides, temporary crowns, dental models, metal frameworks and more. This already has interesting ramifications on how we can approach care. After all, being able to print a bespoke, fully customised solution in practice instantly saves time for us as professionals and our patients, streamlining treatment from the word go. Plus, as 3D printing is so accurate, this can result in much better-quality dental models and surgical guides that allow for better precision even during complex surgery. The reproducible element of all 3D printed designs is also a big draw, as you can guarantee that products created using this technology are effectively identical every time, with the margin for abnormalities and discrepancies being far lower than the majority of traditional manufacturing techniques.
We also need to consider the affordability of 3D printers and how this can help our practices as a business. Running costs of these technologies tends to be low, and due to their versatility, they could help us save a substantial amount of revenue compared to having these solutions fabricated elsewhere. It’s also technology that doesn’t require a steep learning curve, meaning that it can be integrated into practice workflows easily and without the need for excessive amounts of training – definitely a plus when we’re already so stretched for time.
But is this technology here to stay? Looking at projections, it seems to me that 3D printing in dentistry is only going to continue to make life easier for us. Experts have predicted that in the future we may be able to use 3D printers with materials such as zirconia to create permanent restorations. 3D printers also have the ability to evolve to meet current and future challenges, updating software to become more accurate, faster, and to tackle new applications.[i] Effectively, a 3D printer may become must-have technology for us to have in practice in the near future – especially when we consider how easy it is to integrate these systems into our work as they are now.
Ultimately, I would argue that 3D printing, if the technology continues to improve and become more affordable, is likely to become the norm. With almost limitless applications and the opportunity to streamline care with ease, it’s definitely a sector to keep an eye on if we want to remain at the very cutting-edge of care.
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[i] Dental Tribune. 3D Printing in Dentistry: Future-Proof technology? Link: https://www.dental-tribune.com/news/3d-printing-in-dentistry-future-proof-technology/ [Last accessed October 21].