Digital Dentistry expands with the use of 3D printing.
A Panel Discussion for featuring Beth Collington, Director of Digital Materials, Global Prosthetic Solutions, Zahn Dental/Harry Schein and Josh Eggebraaten, General Dentist at Minneapolis VA Dental Clinic.
3D printing in dentistry, or more commonly known now as Digital Dentistry, has its roots in the evolution of 3D mechanical CAD/CAM software that became commercially available in the late 1970s and early 80s. Despite the lengthy history, digital dentistry has been slow to gain adoption until the last few years. 3D printing is now used to create bridges, crowns, implants, veneers, retainers, aligners and more, at a much faster pace than traditional methods. What stage is it at now and what does the future hold in dentistry?
“It’s probably the most exciting time to be part of the evolution of digital dentistry and 3D printing is bringing it to a whole new level,” says Beth Collington. “I feel that the technology has created so many new, exciting applications for our customers.”
In the panel Collington gives examples of the advancements she is witness to, and part of.
“You can just do things at such a faster rate. You’re creating final prosthetics, it’s streamlined analog processes in the laboratory to such a high level, raising the standard of patient care. The pricing has come down exponentially, so it’s really become very available to the mainstream,” she says.
But what has spurred this evolution? Both experts agrees that new 3D printing materials are a key contributor.
“We’re seeing an influx of many more FDA cleared materials that we can use in the patient’s mouth.” says Josh Eggebraaten. “And so I think we’re going to see big improvements in the aesthetics and the longevity and the strength of some of these 3D printed materials.”
The panelists also describe Digital Dentistry as a way to improve patient comfort – an important aspect of trying to reduce the stress involved in going to the dentist. In the main, fewer chair visits, greater accuracy and speed of delivery are key findings.
“There’s so much fear around dentistry to the general public. The opportunity to show how it’s come so far into the future, where the patient experience is comfortable,” says Collington. “It’s accurate, you’re using CAD/CAM technologies. You’re using computer aided diagnostics. You have digital prescription transfer and the speed that you can deliver those solutions is really the most opportunity for everybody to get in this game.”
Related to that is that having a digital record of dentures, crowns and other devices mean a patient who breaks or loses them can easily and quickly have them replaced, with fewer visits.
Eggebraaten says, “So we had a patient who was worried they might lose their denture. They ended up losing their denture and we 3D printed the backup denture. And so that was really helpful for that patient. It saved that patient four appointments.”
So where is the technology going? What does the future hold for digital dentistry?
The evolution of biomaterials seems to be an inevitable step forward, stepping away from more traditional materials into bioidentical enamel, bioprinted enamel and more.
“At the speed that this industry has begun to innovate, I think biomaterials are absolutely the next phase for a distribution segment of the business.” Says Collington. “I think there’s a lot of growth and opportunities in this area and I think you’re going to see a lot happening in the next three to five years.”
The adoption of digital processes in dentistry has been slow to evolve. In 2021 the American Dental Association reported that even now just 53% of dentists use intraoral scanners. Do our panelists think this evolution will continue?
“Digital impressions, this type of technology, is absolutely becoming a standard of patient care and should be,” says Collington. “In medical industries we’ve had implementation of computer aided support for years… And I personally would not want to see a dentist that was not adapting this type of technology, taking care of my restorations.”
Watch the full discussion HERE.
To become part of this conversation and more, join the medical and dental community at the AM Medical Summit, November 1-3 in Minneapolis.