The megatrend 3D printing: Dentistry is heading the field and creating new opportunities

3D printing is still considered to be a possible “game-changer”: New treatment methods, new forms of teamwork, new business models. Dentistry is one of the pioneers. The current opportunities for the practice and laboratory are within grasp – at the International Dental Show, 12 to 16 March 2019, in Cologne.

According to a current analysis, the worldwide market for 3D printing products in the industry is estimated to grow by between 13% and 23% up to a volume of Euro 22.6 billion by 2030.

Specifically, in the medical technology sector, it is estimated to increase from Euro 0.26 billion (status: 2015) up to Euro 5.59 billion (2030).

According to the estimations of the experts, the development will occur in two phases: primarily the “reinvention” of existing products up until around 2020, then increasingly innovative materials and optimized printing methods. In the industry comparison, 3D printing is experiencing the strongest growth in the medical and dentistry sectors. Hence the dentists, dental technicians, and the dental industry are taking on a natural pioneer role.

The printing of bases using the laser-controlled method has long since established itself, whereas dental models are made out of plastic for instance. Market researchers see the biggest opportunities for orthodontic appliances, prostheses, crowns, bridges, aligners, and models. Wide sections of which have in the meantime become areas of application in the laboratory and practice.

This manufacturing process continually attracts special attention with spectacular applications. For example, in the prophylaxis segment an individualized, 3D imprinted dental floss holder is one of the advanced developments.

Vivid images prove effective for communications. A digitally modeled smile agreed upon together with the patient serves here as the template for an imprinted 3D model, this is in turn used to produce a negative of the patient’s teeth in a silicone key and ultimately a thin “veneer simulation” of the actual restoration for an initial aesthetic check in the patient’s mouth.

A robot also managed to implant two 3D imprinted teeth into a patient’s mouth. And to reproduce the original form of the jaw after removing oral tumors, the defect can be scanned today and a template produced using the 3D printing method.

This serves to extract a precisely matching block of bone from another part of the body (i.e. calf) which is subsequently fitted into the mouth – for the patient this is approx. an eight-hour “all-in-one OP”.

Talking about 3D printing in the singular form seems to be an under exaggeration today – there are namely so many different methods meanwhile. These include stereolithography with a precision degree in the lower two-digit micrometer area, which is suitable for instance for drilled templates and which can be used for a wide range of resins in the dentistry sector.

Furthermore, the DLP method is also available: It excels because it is extremely fast because due to the one-time exposure (instead of a dancing laser beam) the respective next layer of the object hardens as quickly as lightning. The polyjet method attains an extremely high degree of precision (16 micrometers). It functions most similarly to the familiar office printer and doesn’t require support constructions and material post-processing.

From plastic to metal imprints: Here one is familiar with selective laser melting, selective laser sintering (SLS), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), or lasercusing: The crowns, bridges, and denture bases (“digital model casting bases”) are made out of non-precious metal dental alloys or titanium.

The International Dental Show (IDS) from 12 to 16 March 2019 in Cologne presents the entire spectrum of methods and applications already implemented today, including the 3D printing of models of all kinds, from implant masks, drilling templates, casted designs (individual), impression trays, splints (incl. occlusal splints), from transfer keys, from aligner films and from long-term temporary restorations made of plastic as well as printing crown and bridge bases, from bars and denture bases made of alloys. The suppliers will explain the characteristics of imprintable materials, software solutions, and services appropriate for the practice and laboratory at the exhibition stands.

“A great deal has become possible in this section that we wouldn’t have begun to imagine to this extent a few years ago and one thing is clear today: 3D printing will change the digital process chains long-term, said Mark Stephen Pace, Chairman of the VDDI (Association of the German Dental Manufacturers e.V.).

“There are also clinical, technical, and economic opportunities for innovative business models. The chances that arise there for one’s own practice and one’s own laboratory are demonstrated at the International Dental Show in Cologne in 2019 more than at any other place.”

IDS (International Dental Show) takes place in Cologne every two years and is organized by the GFDI Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Dental-Industrie mbH, the commercial enterprise of the Association of German Dental Manufacturers (VDDI) and is staged by Koelnmesse GmbH, Cologne.

Keywords: imprinted 3D model, International Dental Show, Dentist, lasercusing, polyjet, Dentistry, medical technology