COLOGNE, Germany: Additive manufacturing (3D printing) offers all the prerequisites for customised design. Its adoption in the dental industry means that dentists and dental technicians are therefore destined to take a pioneering role in popularising it. The current status of 3D printing, as well as ideas about its future direction, will be highlighted at IDS 2021.
Procedures for processing dental materials are developing rapidly. Precious metals have traditionally been cast, as have non-precious alloys and titanium (under shielding gas). Ceramic materials are milled, but for several years, non-precious alloys (with subsequent sintering) and even precious metals have also been milled. Additive manufacturing has become increasingly established in this time, in part because it involves practically no loss of material. Crowns, bridges and denture bases, for example, can be fabricated in this manner using non-precious dental alloys (e.g. through selective laser melting, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering or LaserCUSING).
Dentures can now also be fabricated from resin with 3D printing. They are able to be made even stronger and in a more attractive colour through the combination of several resin components—either in ready-to-use formulas or mixed directly during the printing process.
Today, the strengths of resin printing are primarily visible in models or occlusal splints. Veneers and gingival masks too are fabricated on the basis of an intra-oral scan using additive manufacturing. In addition, denture bases and teeth are printed and then bonded to form a full-arch or complete denture or are even fabricated in one piece through this technique. Furthermore, mock-ups can be printed from try-in resins.
In implantology, a drilling template ensures that the surgeon locates the optimum position and angle determined during planning. Printed orientation templates with separate cranial and caudal sections help during external sinus lift: blood vessels that run through the access are protected.
In endodontics, printed orientation templates make it easier to locate a root apex for resectioning. In orthodontics, high precision is achieved with positioning trays (indirect bonding trays). The positions of the brackets are initially planned virtually, and the brackets then have to be cemented precisely in the correct position in the patient’s mouth. The template printed from resin provides additional security in this regard.
The basic strength of 3D-printed objects lies in their possible implementation as one-offs or as a small series—the latter, for example, can prove useful in situations where the dentist requires assistance or when an instrument fails, if a 3D printer is available and the necessary digital infrastructure is in place and so on. Why not simply print several copies of the required instrument according to a blueprint? This works for simpler aids anyway. A holding device for a bag of isotonic saline solution, for example, can be printed quickly and precisely for a dental unit as described by Dawood et al.1 This demonstrates above all that 3D printing stimulates the creativity of all involved!
- Dawood A, Marti Marti B, Sauret-Jackson V, Darwood A. 3D printing in dentistry. Br Dent J. 2015 Dec;219(11):521–9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.2015.914. Erratum in: Br Dent J. 2016 Jan 22;220(2):86.