How 3D Printing is Used in Dental Modeling

A close-up of 3D dental printing. See how 3D printing lowers costs and improves treatment

How 3D Printing is Used in Dental Modeling

Considering the virtually limitless applications for 3D printing (or additive manufacturing), it is difficult to say if certain businesses or industries can benefit more than others. But when we look at how additive manufacturing technologies are used in the dental industry, we can’t think of any other sector that could benefit more.

From lowering dental costs to speeding up and improving treatment, benefits are felt by dental appliance manufacturers, dentists and patients alike. And there is no better application to illustrate the benefits of 3D printing technology than in the creation of dental models.   

Benefits of 3D Printing for Dental Modeling

No discussion of the benefits of 3D-printed models in the development and manufacture of orthodontic appliances can begin without looking at the traditional ways of creating a 3D model.

The quick version of the traditional process starts with getting an alginate impression of a patient’s teeth (remember biting into putty at the dentist?). The impression is sent to a dental lab that uses it to create stone models. Those models are then used to develop the dental application. 

By comparison, 3D printing technology starts with a digital, intraoral scan, which is then used to print a high-quality, highly accurate 3D-printed model. Like the traditional approach, the 3D-printed model is then used to create dental applications, like crowns and bridges.

But that’s where the similarity between the two approaches abruptly ends.

Compared to the traditional approaches, the advantages of 3D-printed models in creating dental products virtually revolutionizes the process.

  • Faster Modeling – At almost every step of the process, 3D modeling drastically reduces the time it takes to produce a dental model. For example, just in the length of time it takes to produce a model from a scan or impression, stone models can take up to a week to produce, while models created with additive manufacturing can be ready within a day.
  • Higher Accuracy – 3D models are capable of higher levels of accuracy (within 40 microns of the actual dimension), which can improve fitting times and avoid delays due to reworking a finished appliance.
  • Longer Working Life – Stone models tend to crack and crumble over time. 3D models are as durable as the high-strength materials used to print them.
  • Easier to Duplicate – 3D models can be printed many times, which can facilitate the simultaneous development of two or more dental applications.
  • Lowers Costs – Like development time reductions, cost savings can be realized at almost every step of the process. These include faster scanning versus alginate impressions, streamlined development of dental applications, fewer errors, and shorter treatment times, to name just a few.  

To learn more about how 3D printing is used in the dental industry, check out our article “Dental Applications of Stratasys 3D Printers’.

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