Although prosthetics for teeth and limbs have equally been around for a while, there’s quite a bit of excitement lately in the dental industry. How come? 3D printing has arrived for oral prostheses!
Using a wide range of compounds, it’s now possible to email a 3D printing design to a dental office and have your office print out your new prostheses a short time after your fitting. Excited yet? You should. Typically, it takes anywhere from three days to even a week for dental prostheses to arrive from your dentist’s supplier.
Worse yet, when your unit arrives it might not fit all that well and has to be adjusted. It’s not uncommon for dentists to request another unit and you get stuck in the waiting game once again. Well, thanks to the modern technological miracle of 3D printing, those annoying wait times are gone.
Your dentist can do the fitting in his or her office using computer-aided design (CAD) software. The software produces a data file which is then fed to a 3D printer in the same office. Talk about quick and convenient! Definitely no need to wait for Fedex to drop off your new dental prostheses or crown. Everything takes places from the comfort and convenience of your dentist’s office.
Using tubes of compounds feeding through a printer’s output head (or the part of the print head where ink normally squirts out), software layers one tier of compound after another to match the exact contours and shape of your mouth. This is a highly precise process where the software guiding the 3D printer faithfully follows the unique dimensions, features, and shape of your mouth and teeth.
Dental 3D Printing Advantages
Given the high level of precision of 3D printing, your missing tooth can be faithfully replicated or approximated into a new prosthesis. Since these devices are already designed to work well with mounting pieces, you can bet that your 3D printed new tooth or teeth would be similar to one produced by a specialized vendor. The best part is that if there are any shaving, adjustments, or other kinds of modifications that need to be done, your dentist can find out immediately after your prostheses have printed and dried.
Another great advantage of printing teeth is your dentist can see the projected tooth that’s being recreated as he or she measures your mouth and other teeth. This information is fed into CAD software and adjustments can be made immediately after your mouth’s measurement as the projected tooth is shown by the software. This takes quite a bit of the guesswork out of crafting dental prosthetics.
This ‘real time’ projection ensures your new replacement tooth will look its best. You can see how your teeth will look when you smile. Not only does technology preserve your great smile, it also makes sure your jawline doesn’t wear out because of your missing tooth or teeth.
Quick Crown Printouts
Your dental prostheses’ most visible section is called its crown. This is the fake tooth that preserves your smile. Holding it up and holding it in place is the metal screw or jacket that attaches your crown to your jaw. This metal screw is called the implant.
3D printing is poised to revolutionize the usually time-intensive process of crown fitting. While you probably won’t save much time with the implant process-where a metal screw is buried into your jaw bone-you stand to save days if not weeks when it comes to the crown part of your implant.
Since matching your other teeth can take quite a while using molds, using CAD to measure and fit your mouth helps shave off quite a bit of time off the process. Also, adjustments can be made in real-time so there’s no time and energy wasted bouncing Fedex molds back and forth with your dentist’s supplier.
How 3D Printing Works
Dental 3D printing uses filaments like ceramic compounds and strong resins. These are pushed through the ‘head’ of the 3D printer. These compounds are then colored so the printed crown looks like the rest of your teeth.
The CAD software’s data points are read by the printer to craft a precise rendering of the tooth it will print out. The printer then layers on filament materials until the tooth is completed. The crown will then undergo further adjustment, sanding, and brushing so it fits snugly and comfortably in your mouth.
Crucial Parts Of The 3D Crown Printing Process
First, your mouth has to be scanned through MRI or x-ray. This scan reveals your jaw line’s parameters. If you have a missing tooth, your jawline shrinks. Your dentist will closely review your scan to see if your jawline can support an implant.
Second, a plaster or rubber mold will be taken of your teeth. Your dentist gets ideas on how to shape your tooth with this information.
Third, the scan and mold data is converted and fed into CAD software. Your dentist can do further modifications or reviews here.
Finally, the CAD data is sent to the 3D printer. The filament that matches the color of your other teeth is loaded to the printer and the printer head slowly layers one tier of filament after another as it ‘prints’ out the CAD data’s depiction of your crown.
It only takes minutes to print your new crown. Your dentist will then measure the crown to see if it can fit the metal piece of your implant.
What needs to happen before your crown is printed?
Usually, your dentist will place the implant in your jaw line and you’ll have to wait a few months. The metal piece is buried into your jaw line. It usually takes months for your jaw to heal. After your implant is in place, your dentist might choose to put a placeholder crown on it so there’s no gap.
Once x-rays show your implant fully incorporated into your jaw’s bone tissue, your dentist can print out your prostheses using a 3D printer. This process can go a long way in shaving some time off the prostheses measuring and adjustment stage of getting tooth implants.
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