3D Dental Printing

What is 3D Dental Printing?

3D dental printing is a manufacturing process that involves using highly accurate 3D printers to fabricate dental models from intraoral scans or impressions.  At Smart Design Dental, we use the dental models to make dental appliances and restorations. In fact, some appliances you would not consider, like night guards, TMJ splints and simple clear aligners can be directly made with 3D printing. 

There are several types of 3D Printers used for dental appliances. Smart Designs uses EnvisionTec brand 3SP and DLP printers. Both utilize a photocurable resin that is UV light cured in thin layers to form the desired object. Printers differ based on their sources of light that cures the resin. DLP printers use a projector to project cross sections of a 3D object on to the bottom of a tray of resin. DLP printers build models inverted from the bottom up, so when an object is finished printing, it will be upside down on the build platform. However, these printers are limited on the area of resin the light source can reach. 3SP Printers use a laser to etch out the cross sections of a 3D object. These printers are capable of curing a larger area of resin versus the DLP printers, allowing technicians to print 30-50 dental models at one time. (You can tell this was written by a CAD/CAM expert and it too detailed for our purposes!)

How is 3D Dental Printing Used?

There are two significant influences 3D printing had had on the dental field. First, the ability to produce highly accurate and durable dental models will ultimately result in better fitting dental restorations and appliances. Second, is that it allows a dental technician to virtually design an appliance directly from a scan file, providing the most accurate that are intimately contoured to the patient’s bite, providing a more natural fit.

When a Doctor sends an intraoral scan to our lab, our technicians must convert the scan file to a 3D printable STL file. As a part of the process, our technicians virtually carve and sculpt the models to remove all imperfections and can virtually block out undercuts providing patients with a better fitting appliance.

What are the Benefits?

Intraoral scanning is quickly becoming the “go-to” over traditional dental impressions. Prior to 3D printing, impression material was used to record conditions in the mouth, then plaster was poured in to them to fabricate the appliance or restorations.  With each step distortion is introduced. By contrast, intraoral scanners eliminate this variable, precisely recording the tooth that was worked on or an entire scan of the mouth allowing for very accurate models and better fitting appliances or restorations.

Below are examples of 3D printing completed by our dental lab: 

If you’d like to learn more about 3D dental printing or have questions/requests for our dental lab, don’t hesitate to reach out! We accept both local and national orders.