The technology newly ‘crowned’ in the production of dental devices is additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing.

AM is a quicker, more cost-effective and fuss-free way of making metal dental parts when likened to traditional machining. Experts in the field say that metal 3D printing is more reliable, accurate, and can be customized better. At the same time, it creates less waste.

According to a report by ResearchAndMarkets.com, The Total Market for Additive Manufacturing in Dentistry will Surpass $2.7 Billion (USD) in 2019. The report also says that by 2022, 500 million dental devices and restorations will be produced annually via additive manufacturing.

SPEED EQUALS EFFICIENCY

Traditionally, the complete process – from the time of taking a tooth imprint to the final fitting of the device in the patient’s mouth – can take days or even weeks. With AM, the entire casting step can be skipped if 3D images of a patient’s mouth can be attained. The scan is displayed on a computer monitor where it can be studied. The data is used to make a computer-aided design (CAD) model. The CAD file is then moved to a 3D printer. It is possible to create a complete dental model, both top and bottom jaw, in 7-8 hours. This comparatively short printing time means that 3D technology can cost less.

MATERIALS USED IN METAL 3D DENTAL PARTS

While the process is being mastered, the challenge lies in marrying the technology with the materials suitable for use in dentistry. At present, cobalt-chrome and titanium alloys are the most prevalent metals used for metal 3D dental parts. These parts are constantly being exposed to friction, so the primary material has to be resistant to grinding.

THE BIG PICTURE

The long-term objective of this technology is enhancement in patient care. Scans can be compared over lengths of time to check progress. In short, anything that saves time for the doctor at the chair is a win.