Michael Sultan asks: “Is 3D printing in dentistry here to stay?”
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 3D printing (additive manufacturing (AM)) are fast gaining traction.
But what are the benefits of 3D printing and should we be adopting this technology now? The simple answer is yes. In many ways, 3D printing is a lot more versatile than we might think, the number of solutions that can be manufactured using this technology are almost endless.
We can create anything from surgical guides to temporary crowns, dental models, metal frameworks and more, which has interesting ramifications regarding the ways we approach oral care. Printing a bespoke, fully customised solution in practice saves time for we professionals and for our patients, streamlining treatment workflow 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 greater 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 identical every time, with the margin for abnormalities and discrepancies far lower than the majority of traditional manufacturing techniques.
Running costs for AM tends to be low, and thanks to their versatility, they could help us save a substantial amount of money when compared to having these solutions fabricated elsewhere. The technology doesn’t require a steep learning curve. It can easily be integrated into practice workflows – without any 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 the projections, it strikes me that AM in dentistry will continue to make life easier for us. Expert predictions posit that one day we will be using 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.
In conclusion I’d look into my 3D printed crystal ball and see a 3D printer as the next must-have technology for us to have in the dental practice in the near future. I would argue that, if AM 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 wish to remain at the very cutting-edge of care.
Michael Sultan is a regular contributor to Dental Review and the founder and principal of specialist endodontic practice EndoCare. For more information, call 020 7224 0999 or visit www.endocare.co.uk