Clinical Applications of 3D Printing : Part 2

Jan 12, 2021

By: Dr. Kyle King

Previously, I discussed the different types of 3D printers available on the market today and the basic premise in which they work. With that foundational knowledge, let’s look at the clinical applications and indications of using 3D printing in the dental office.  

One of the earliest adopters of 3D printing was the surgical realm and the use of printing surgical guides for implant placement.  As we all know, proper implant placement, especially in the esthetic zone, is paramount for restorative success.  There are numerous applications that allow for implant design placement and exporting the file for a nominal fee such as BlueSkyBio, and a typical guide to 3D print only costs $1.50-$2 in material expenses.  Being able to fully oversee the entire guided surgery from the design, restorative mockup, digital implant placement, and the surgical guide fabrication allows for not only reduced overhead expenses, but gives the practitioner the ultimate control in the success of the surgery.

While Invisalign name recognition remains “King” of the clear aligner realm, as we all know there are numerous clear aligner options available for patients today.  The company aforementioned, BlueSkyBio, also allows for the design and fabrication of in-house aligners.  The practitioner can design the orthodontic case themselves using their easy-to-use software, and from there it generates a series of models for 3D printing. Unfortunately, one would still need a Drufomat, Ministar, or similar positive pressure machine to fabricate the aligners on, as there is not a material available today to 3D print aligners themselves with enough rigidity for orthodontic forces.

As the last JADA stated and I’m sure everyone has noticed, there has been a drastic increase in bruxism, fractured teeth, and TMD issues in the past 6 months.  Thankfully, we can now 3D print bruxism splints in office in a matter of just a few hours.  There are numerous options for design and fabrication of the splints, including various deprogrammers with a variety of resin options to choose from. Most 3D splints utilize $3 in resin, which are FDA approved and biocompatible. 

Lastly, the workflow and process of digital denture fabrication has made significant advances in the past 5 years.  With digital software advances, dentists are now truly able to do a complete digital smile design, process, and fabrication. Laboratory expenses, especially those with high patient expectations or those that require numerous try-ins, can be expensive. Now, setting denture teeth, 3D printing a monothilic denture for try-in, and even 3D printing an immediate economy denture, can all be done in just a few hours.  According to SprintRay, a monolithic denture try-in only costs about $4 in materials per arch.  

It is truly an exciting time to be in our profession, and there are numerous advancements made each and every day to better be able to treat and care for the needs of our patients.  

Images obtained from SprintRay, Dental Economics, and myself.