New technologies help shape our future. Dentistry’s future is no exception. With advances in electronics, software and 3D printing, dentistry is on track to bring these technologies to patients and make a visit to the dentist more comprehensive than ever.
3D printing does not need any introduction. Its incorporation into healthcare has been newsworthy with the technology’s potential to print medicines, prosthetics, and even organ replicas. Its importance was further highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis to bypass supply chains to meet hospitals’ demands. As the technology is set to become an integral part of healthcare practice, it will also become incorporated in dental labs.
Computer-assisted design (CAD) and computer-assisted manufacture (CAM), including 3D-printing, are already changing the way dental lab technicians do their work. Traditionally, when a patient needs a crown, a dentist must make an impression of the tooth, ship it to the dental laboratory and then wait for them to make a permanent crown.
With CAD/CAM technology, the tooth is drilled to prepare it for the crown and a three-dimensional scan is taken of all the patient’s teeth. This image is then emailed to a laboratory that CAD designs the new tooth and begins the process of creating an oven fired glass-like crown. With a 3D printer doing the hard work, dental labs eliminate the bottleneck of manual modelling and can get the final product back to dental offices faster than ever before.
3D printers are also able to produce orthodontic models, surgical guides, aligners, retainers and more dental equipment faster and precisely; tasks that would take longer with traditional methods. This helps in improving workflows and reducing errors.
While there is currently CAM that allows a dentist to have a crown milled right in the office, the materials in the final product do not have the same glass-like finish as the materials that are created in a dental lab. But as 3D printing materials improve, the dental office may be able to completely bypass the dental laboratory all together.
The dental profession is always looking for ways to improve the care of its patients. Technology is paving the way for making a visit to the dentist more comprehensive than ever. CAD/CAM will certainly play one of the biggest roles in this improvement.
Dr. James T. Gavrilos is accredited with AACD. His office is located at 129 Park Avenue in Barrington. For more information, call 847-381-4040 or visit barringtondentist.com.