For almost 40 years, dentistry has been associated with some form of CAD / CAM technology. We have been scanning teeth and models for decades and using CNC technology to mill and manufacture restorations. This process is purely reducing and grinds or grinds blocks or ingots to produce the final restoration. But with the advent of additive manufacturing, think about 3D printing. We are entering a new era of dental manufacturing and it will be a very exciting time.
Traditional milling machines for dental restorations began with diamond grinding of glass ceramics. Feldspathic blocks were crushed using a dual motor CNC machine to create inlays / onlays and crowns. This process can take 3045 minutes or more. At the time, this was an incredible innovation, but today the time is simply unacceptable.
Fast-forwarding to this day, the milling machine process is far ahead of where we started. Today, you can send a repair from CEREC Primescan designed with just a few clicks to Primemill and produce a full contour zirconia repair within 5 minutes. It’s incredible to think about how far we can go with the speed, accuracy, and efficiency we have with current technology. And it’s only in the chairside world.
Our lab partners have even better technology that not only allows us to efficiently produce high quality restorations, but also to produce them on a much larger scale. In the laboratory, a large 5-axis mill can be used to produce dozens of restorations at a time from a pack of materials. This reduced lab overhead and increased lab output. Modern dental inspectors may no longer have a CDT degree, but instead have a background in computer science and graphic design. Restoration design and milling will be a computerized process forever.
Over the last five to seven years, the world of 3D printing has exploded into the dental scene. Formlabs was one of the first manufacturers of Form2 printers to target the dental market. Using a bat filled with uncured resin, a highly detailed laser systematically cures the resin on the build platform, creating a dental model from a digital impression. My first 3D printer usually takes 1012 hours to build a model, but that was enough at the time. In fact, the ultimate elimination of alginate, stones and model trimmers was exciting!
Today, companies such as SprintRay and Dentsply Sirona are creating powerful and innovative 3D printing solutions that dramatically speed up the manufacturing process. Primeprint allows you to create a set of models in less than 30 minutes, which you haven’t heard just a few years ago.
It is only a matter of time before laminated modeling becomes the standard for dentistry, especially due to the rapid pace of innovation, research and development in biocompatible materials and resins. It took about 40 years to reduce the milled crown from 40 minutes to 5 minutes, and only a few years to reduce the 12-hour printing process to 30 minutes. Today, we have already printed a surgical guide, splint and provisional edition. Within a few years, 3D printing of the final restoration will become an important part of the market. Anyway, I’m excited to be riding for free.
Editor’s Note: This article was published in the May 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. North American dentists are eligible for a free print subscription. Please sign up here.
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