A recent story about an adorable puppy and a missing tooth demonstrates the power and promise of 3D printing technology in dental treatments.
Printing a New Tooth
Earlier this year, a Labrador retriever puppy named Hanna broke an incisor while chewing a bone. The painful injury to this important tooth left Hanna reluctant to eat, according to a Daily Mail article.
Thanks to Animal Avengers, a group of veterinarians and surgeons who volunteer their services, Hanna now has a new front tooth and is able to eat normally again. First, a dentist and a 3D design specialist teamed up to digitally map Hanna’s upper jaw.
The digital modeling was fed to a 3D printer designed for medical applications and used to create a prosthetic tooth from chromium and cobalt. The Animal Avengers team previously used the technology to construct artificial beaks for birds, and a shell for a tortoise.
3D Printing and Human Dental Treatments
The use of 3D printing in dentistry and other medical fields is expanding rapidly. In dental care, 3D printers are often used to create molds, dental crowns, veneers and transparent braces.
These high-tech printers, which build three-dimensional products layer by layer, are for now utilized primarily by dental laboratories. The labs use digital imaging technology and/or dental models created by dentists to create the appropriate dental work.
In the future, dentists may have these devices in-house. A recent Economic Times article discussed the ever-increasing dental applications of 3D printing, and indicated the technology could soon allow dentists to draft and print a prosthetic tooth in about 6 ½ minutes. The same piece pointed out that cost remains a factor; 3D printers with medical applications can cost upward of $1 million, so for now it’s more cost effective to work with dental labs.
The Future of 3D Printing in Dentistry
Just last year, researchers used a 3D printer to craft artificial teeth and dental implants from antimicrobial polymers. The antimicrobial compound in the plastic kills Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria that causes tooth decay.
Further study and clinical trials are necessary before antimicrobial printed teeth are widely available, but the research holds promise. As does the use of 3D printing technology in jaw bone reconstruction.
Oral health problems including missing teeth and gum disease can lead to progressive loss of jaw bone density, and some patients who choose dental implants need bone grafts to anchor the implants. An April 2016 Wired article focused on 3D printers’ role in creating jaw-replacement components, but scientists believe the technology will eventually allow doctors and laboratories to produce something close to natural bone.
Austin cosmetic dentist Dr. Dan Matthews understands the importance of a healthy smile to your self-confidence and your overall well-being. If you’re considering cosmetic dentistry or restorative dentistry treatment, please call our Bee Cave Road office today at 512-452-2273 to schedule your consultation.