3D printing is now being used across a wide range of industries for a variety of applications. More recently, the medical and dental fields have seen huge advances in technology. In dentistry, 3D printers and other tools such as intraoral scanners are allowing dentists to adopt digital workflows which make practices more efficient and improve patient treatment outcomes.
Traditionally, 3D printers in dentistry have involved complex processes, lack of efficiency and post-processing was messy and inconvenient. The process was manual which demanded active working time from dentists or lab technicians and specialist knowledge was required.
When it comes to orthodontics, splints, surgical guides and other applications, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and multiple iterations of the same mouthpiece are often required. 3D printing provides the perfect solution in dentistry, making it possible to produce unique surgical guides, splints and implants quickly and cost-effectively. The lengthy process of taking physical impressions and sending them to the lab is no longer necessary.
Let’s have a look at the key innovations that are driving more and more dentists to adopt 3D printing solutions.
By nature, the dental industry requires high levels of customization. No two patients or appliances are the same and, as a result, the industry has relied on manual methods to create dental appliances for each patient. However, digital workflows now allow dental practices and labs to produce these appliances in a quicker and more cost-efficient way. This requires less labor time and incurs lower costs than manual methods.
Digital technologies such as intraoral scanners and 3D printers simplify workflows, reduce room for error, as well as the amount of labor required, which provides time and cost savings for the dental practice, laboratory and patients.
The cost of producing appliances manually along with the cost of employing skilled staff to produce them can have an impact on the overheads of a dental practice or laboratory. A 3D printer does not require specialist staff involvement or additional training which makes it a more cost-efficient way to produce dental appliances.
In dental labs, 3D printers can reduce the amount of labor needed to produce dental appliances, lower the total cost of production and allow a better quality of production than manual methods.
Adding a 3D printer to your dental practice allows you to create appliances such as surgical guides and splints in house without the need to send impressions off to a lab and wait for them to be produced and delivered.
In addition, for laboratories with 3D printers, the appliances are much quicker to produce, and more than one can be produced at a time, which means less waiting time for patients. When used alongside other digital tools such as intraoral scanners, finished products are likely to be more accurate which frees up more time with fewer visits for the patient.
With 3D printing workflows in place, the scan of the patient’s mouth can be sent to the lab or the 3D printer within minutes, making production much quicker.
When a new piece of equipment is introduced to a dental practice or lab, staff will be required to learn how to use the equipment and maintain it on daily basis. In the past, 3D printers have required a huge amount of manual work to operate. This required staff to have specialist knowledge and training with the machine, making 3D printers inaccessible or unaffordable for most dental practices.
3D printing technology has now developed with more automation included, making the printers easy to use with no specialist training required. Dentsply Sirona’s Primeprint solution is a simplified end to end 3D printing solution that provides automated post-processing which reduces handling times, allows delegation and maximizes productivity. All of these features allow for an easy-to-use system that can help to streamline workflows.
3D printers can be utilized for a wide range of purposes within dentistry. The need for digital, efficient workflows, faster treatment times and fewer appointments is set to see the demand for 3D printers grow. The demand combined with 3D printers which are now easier to use means that more dentists have access to implement the technology.
In addition, an increasing elderly generation and more patients who are taking care of their dental health, along with cosmetic treatments which are rising in popularity too. Those dentists who can provide a better service that’s more accurate and requires less chair time will sit ahead of their competition in the future. Dentists and labs who implement digital workflows are better equipped to meet patient expectations and attract new patients and practices in the future.
The number of advanced materials available for 3D printing is growing and, as a result, the range of printable dental appliances is also growing. 3D printing in dentistry can already be used to create models, guides and splints but, as materials develop, so will the range of appliances that can be 3D printed. If you want to invest in a 3D printer, you may want to start with a few applications and expand your service offering in the future.
Dentists who are able to utilize the applications of 3D printing within their practices will be able to provide a faster, more responsive service and improved patient care and outcomes.
Dentsply Sirona’s Primeprint has been developed to print biocompatible applications with high accuracy and reproducible results. In addition, intelligent material handling allows for safe and clean usage with RFID coding throughout the process.
Alongside the materials, as the software and hardware for 3D printing is developed, new features and applications will be provided. 3D printing is a market that is continually developing and can be easily integrated into the workflows of any dental practice or laboratory.
3D printers are not a standalone feature within digital dentistry. To utilize a 3D printer within your dental practice, it’s important to incorporate it as part of a digital workflow that takes advantage of other pieces of hardware and software. 3D printing allows more dentists to incorporate digital workflows and provide a faster, more accurate and more efficient patient service.
Let’s take a closer look at the technology that enables digital workflows and work hand-in-hand with 3D printers.
Cloud services refer to software and services that use an internet connection and allow you to easily upload, store and share files from any device and any location. There are a number of benefits to using cloud services for your dental practice, including:
Using digital workflows within your dental practice such as intraoral scanners and 3D printers are complemented by cloud services. From your dental practice, you could create a digital impression of a patient’s mouth, upload it to the cloud and either send it to your in-house 3D printer or to a dental lab who will receive it within minutes.
Dentsply Sirona’s DS Core provides cloud storage and patient file-sharing solution that supports regulatory-compliant collaboration among dentists, partners, and labs. This service allows you to keep patient files organized and access them anytime, anywhere, share patient files and collaborate with partners and labs, and connect seamlessly to Dentsply Sirona equipment.
3D printing allows dentists to make digital workflows a reality. The first step into digital dentistry is an intraoral scanner. Once you have invested in an intraoral scanner, a 3D printer will allow you to create models and appliances in-house or easily share files with a dental lab.
Intraoral scanners can help to streamline workflows and reduce the time taken to produce an appliance for a patient but the return on investment and improvement in patient care is enhanced by the ability to print appliances such as splints, surgical guides and dentures in-house.
Digital transformation is impacting dentistry and allowing practices to meet growing patient demands. According to research, as technology becomes more advanced, dental practices are provided with the ability to engage with patients in different ways, allowing them to visualise and view treatment options and enjoy a more personalized, more comfortable service. In this section, we’ll explore how 3D printing can help dentists to meet these changing patient expectations.
Manually producing dental appliances can introduce inconsistencies due to human error. However, this is eliminated with 3D printing. Dental 3D printers are able to produce extremely accurate objects that can be reliably reproduced. Intraoral scanners also make it easier to recreate accurate representations of a patient’s mouth, streamlining workflows and ensuring that the appliances created are accurate.
With manual workflows, the quality of the finished product is dependent on the skills of the technician. As a result, achieving consistency can be extremely difficult. 3D printers have the ability to create delicate structures and create a more stable, durable and precise model.
Manual impression taking and model making is time consuming. However, 3D printing means a digital copy of the impression can be designed and then received and sent to the printer or dental lab within minutes, reducing the time taken to communicate between partners and labs. The lab technician can start work as soon as the scan arrives with the lab. This allows for a quicker and more efficient workflow.
The accuracy and precision provided by 3D printing allows for better patient outcomes and an improved patient experience. As more dental practices implement digital workflows, the expectation for accurate, fast, and cost-efficient treatments will grow. Dentists who implement this technology will be able to attract new patients in the future and meet these new patient expectations.
Dentsply Sirona’s Primeprint is a simplified, end-to-end 3D printing solution. It provides a solution for dentists who want to integrate 3D printing into their practice and expand their treatment offering.
The level of simplification provided by Primeprint from the software used to automated post processing, helps to reduce handling times, allows for delegation and maximizes productivity. Primeprint allows you to print biocompatible applications with reproducible and accurate results. In addition, intelligent material handling allows for safe and clean usage - something that has not previously been possible with 3D printing in dentistry. The Primeprint Box enables convenient and easy material handling with no direct contact with resins.
In addition, DS Core enables you to integrate Primeprint into your existing workflows without having to change them. This allows you to spend more time with your patients and allows you to integrate workflows seamlessly with other solutions within Dentsply Sirona’s product range and grow your dental practice or lab.
Developments in 3D printing are allowing more and more dental practices to implement them and enjoy the benefits of digital workflows. 3D printing is helping to increase productivity, save time and costs and improve patient experience. Dentists who transition into digital dentistry will be able to offer a competitive service and attract or retain more patients, compared to those who fail to keep up with changes in technology.
Please contact a Dentsply Sirona representative to find out more about adding a 3D printer to your dental practice.