3D Printing Is Coming To Dental Offices
- Posted on: Jan 16 2015
Imagine walking into your dentist’s office and having something ready for you in an hour, such as a dental crown. Crazy right? Something like that would normally take a week or more to get made. Your mold must be sent to a lab, then made in the lab, then sent back to the dentist. It’s a whole process.
Well, technology has proved us wrong, yet again.
A few weeks ago in Brighton, New York, dentist Randy Raetz took three-dimensional images of a patient’s front set of teeth with a 3-D scanner that looks just like an electric bulky toothbrush. Raetz then had the patient sit back and wait while he edited some of the imagery on a computer screen before sending them off to a machine called a mill. The mill, which is about the size of a large bread-maker, drills sugar-cube sized porcelain blocks into crowns which will be cemented into the patient’s mouth.
On a single visit, within a few hours the patient can walk out with a brand new dental crown. According to Raetz, this kind of thing is being done for braces as well.
3-D scanners and computer-controlled milling machines are becoming quite common in dental offices. More and more dentists are making digital images of mouths rather than the old fashioned “bite down on this yucky tasting mold” routine we’ve all been through.
Something else to consider with these new state-of-the-art machines is that patients will grow to expect offices to be up to date with the latest and greatest technology. It may affect a patient’s choice to go to one dentist over another.
These machines are also creating a massive increase in productivity. The thing is, many people are busy with full work schedules and often times have a hard time making a follow up appointment to have a crown fitted or braces put in. Now, it’s one step in a single day and there is no follow up appointment necessary. This method is also healthier for the tooth in general. A lot of times, having a follow up will irritate the tooth more than with just one visit.
Financially speaking, this investment is not cheap. For example, Raetz’s equipment set up with a PlanScan wand and mill can cost close to $100,000. And of course, learning how to do the scanning is a whole other process. But once you get the hang of it, things will move a lot more swiftly.
Dr. Hugh Flax has a passion for practicing dentistry. He takes great pleasure in changing patients’ lives through their smiles. He received his degree in dentistry at Emory University and began Flax Dental in 1987. Outside the office, Dr. Flax loves music, New Orleans, traveling and more music. Follow Flax Dental on Twitter and Facebook.