3D printers have already demonstrated their effectiveness in a spectrum of dental and medical procedures, and they hold great promise for additional treatments in the future.
This blend of proof and potential has General Electric and other major corporations buying 3D printing ventures and investing in 3D printing technology.
3D Printing: The Future is Now
In early September, GE announced that it planned to acquire two European 3D printing companies for a total of nearly $1.5 billion. The companies, Germany’s SLM Solutions and Sweden’s Arcam, make machines for metallic 3D printing and serve the healthcare and aerospace industries, among others.
According to a Fortune article on the deal, GE expects its 3D printing business revenue to reach $1 billion by 2020. Less than two weeks after news of its 3D printing acquisitions, GE joined other big names in funding a fast-growing, 3D printing startup.
GE, BMW, Nikon and JSR collectively invested more than $80 million in Carbon, which developed a 3D printer that works 100 times faster than other existing models. The money, according to a Forbes report, will help Carbon expand its production and market.
3D Printing and Dental Treatments
3D printers currently offer a number of dental applications, particularly for cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry treatments. 3D printers have been used to create dental crowns, clear braces, dental veneers, and teeth and mouth models.
Due to their high cost, most dental 3D printers are owned and operated by labs that work with individual dentists to create custom dental work. Even 3D printers with limited capabilities sell for upward of $1 million.
As the technology improves, however, the machines and the products they produce will become more cost-effective. In the near future, many dentists may maintain their own 3D printers and be able to create on-the-spot dental work.
Dentistry and 3D Printing: Looking Forward
Last year, scientists at a Netherlands university used a 3D printer to craft dental implants and artificial teeth with antimicrobial polymers. The polymers were found to help prevent cavities by killing a type of bacteria that fuels tooth decay.
Ongoing research is exploring the use of 3D printing in jaw reconstruction. Missing teeth, gum disease and other oral health problems can lead to the loss of bone density in the jaw, which affects the support for the teeth and their roots. Some patients who desire dental implants to replace missing teeth need bone grafting in order to have a sound foundation for the implants. Medical 3D printers can make components that replicate jaw bone and other types of bone via a combination of metal, plastic and rubber, but 3D printers may one day be able to effectively replicate bone and teeth.
Austin dentist Dr. Dan Matthews is dedicated to helping patients achieve beautiful, healthy smiles. If you’re considering cosmetic dentistry or restorative dentistry treatment, please call our Bee Cave Road office at 512-520-0606 to schedule your consultation.