3D Printing in Your Dental Practice: A Cost Saving Solution for Orthodontists

Author: Prof.Dr. Brando Okolo

The development of invisible orthodontics has opened new avenues for ensuring that patients overcome the stigma of being seen with metallic components in the mouth. While traditional orthodontics (both visible and invisible) generally may induce a great deal of pain, injuries, mouth sores and discomforts of various degrees caused by the wires used for bracing the teeth, there now exist brace-less orthodontics which offer far reaching patient satisfaction. Brace-less orthodontics, so called clear/transparent tray aligners, also make it possible for patients to receive treatments on crooked teeth, teeth spacing/crowding and deep bite issues. Clear tray aligners are made from certified transparent polymeric (plastic) films and developed for patients based on a planning program prepared and implemented by an orthodontist or General Practitioner dentist. The plan entails three key stages:

(1) Creating impressions of the patient’s teeth

(2) Generating computer models for the production of desired profiles of the patient’s teeth

(3) Producing models of the patient’s teeth to be deployed in an incremental fashion.

Digital dentistry now makes the implementation of clear aligners into dental work-flow a lot simpler. Each of the key steps mentioned above can be handled using computer aided tools. The benefits of such an approach in dental practice are immense. Patient-specific treatment programs are developed by the dentist resulting in the custom-fabrication of the clear aligners for the patient. They are made from materials which do not irritate the skin and gums and also allow an easy removal from the mouth to perform other tasks such as teeth brushing and flossing. The diagram below outlines the work-flow which supports the application of clear aligners in orthodontic treatment.

3D printing technologies can be used to manufacture the impressions of the teeth then applied as a form in a thermoforming process to fabricate the clear tray aligners. This approach is cost saving and delivers the dimensional requirements for dental application. Through our expertise in the area of 3D Printing we will assist you in transferring the application of this tool to other aspects of your dental practice such as in muster development to aid consultations with patients.