We sat down with Avi Cohen, Director of Global Dental at Stratasys, to find out how 3D printing technology is having an impact on dental treatments and the broader industry
Avi Cohen is a 3D printing veteran, joining Stratasys (then Objet) in 1999. He’s witnessed the sweeping transition from hand-crafted medical appliances to 3D printed customized solutions in other medical specialties and speculates that the dental world is poised for the same leap.
Cohen watched as the hearing aid market quickly flipped from analog to digital in the mid-2000s. “This was my first step into the medical world,” he explained. “The ear shape is like a fingerprint and 3D printing allowed for the personalization of these medical devices for each patient, down to individualized coloration to match skin shades.”
Dental’s digital point of no return happened in about 2009, Cohen recalls. A few intra-oral scanners were already being used by the early adopters. That truly marked the turning point in the industry. Since then, there’s been signficant growth on an annual basis – but it hasn’t come easy. “You have to explain the value of digital,” he explains. “This industry was virtually the same for 500 years.” Problematic teeth were removed, rather than rehabilitated, and replaced with various kinds of false teeth, bridges and crowns – through the ages, materials varied from wood to ceramics. The adoption of digital technology means that tooth replacements and dental appliances have an exact fit and look better – in the future, permanent replacement materials may even match tooth shading!
What if your local dentist hasn’t gone digital yet? Cohen thinks the rising generation of young dentists will push the technology into many more practices. “Ten years is around the corner in the dental industry,” he explained. A second factor is the price of a quality 3D “intra-oral scanner,” which is the magical machine that eliminates the need for a physical impression of the teeth. The ones who have them are able to 3D print with ease on the Objet30 OrthoDesk and Objet Eden260V 3D Printers, both optimized for dental use. These 3D printers are capable of 3D printing with the popular “dental” materials VeroDent, VeroDentPlus, and Med610.
But what exactly is the value of 3D printing for dentists and dental labs? Much the same as for other manufacturers, 3D printing can offer dentists and their patients highly accurate molds for crowns, bridges and other appliances in far less time than using traditional methods. A recent addition to the line of PolyJet materials, VeroDentPlus, is prized by dentists for its ability to show detail. “The VeroDentPlus delivers high resolution and details, due to its material properties, opacity and color; rendering small features in great detail; and excellent strength and durability,” Cohen explains. “It can be used in conjunction with all open intra-oral impression and plaster scanners and is optimized for printing models for crowns, bridges, orthodontic appliances, and implants.”
Dentists and oral surgeons use 3D printed surgical guides as well, bringing precision to delicate procedures for implants and jaw reconstructions.
But wait, there’s more! “Printing the end product is the future,” Cohen believes. He notes that biocompatible materials need to go through tests and approvals, but could make a huge difference for both temporary and permanent dental solutions.