How 3D technology can expedite your dental care


Three-dimensional (3D) imaging and printing is revolutionizing dentistry with its ability to make braces, dentures, crowns and implants more quickly.

Previously, a dentist would create a plaster impression and send it to a lab for processing in order to replace or repair a tooth or provide an appliance for a patient. Using a digital scanner, computer software and a special high-definition 3D printer, a dentist can now develop materials in house. This "additive manufacturing" is the new frontier in dental care.

With its potential to save time, 3D dental printing is becoming more popular with dentists and dental students around the world. The use of this technology is growing so rapidly that the global dental 3D printing market is expected to reach $9.7 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc.

A rising older population, with increasing oral health needs and tooth replacement surgeries, is a factor in driving demand for 3D dental printing. The average teeth remaining for a person age 65 and above is 18.9, according to findings of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

As dentists begin to incorporate this technology in their practices, you may see changes in how they manage four procedure areas:


One of the most common dental uses of 3D printing is the creation of clear braces, aligners and retainers to help straighten your teeth and fix your bite. This technology is also used to make mouthguards to help prevent nighttime teeth grinding.


Don't attempt to print your own braces! Trying to straighten your teeth on your own can cause permanent damage and be more costly in the long run. Trust your orthodontist, who not only examines your smile but also the quality of your bite and proper alignment of your teeth and their roots as your teeth begin to move.


Traditionally, placing dentures takes five or more procedures over time to get fitted properly. But with 3D imaging, modeling and printing, dentures can be made in half the time.


The process to manufacture crowns to replace weak, cracked or broken teeth has also been simplified. Normally, you would have a plaster impression done during one appointment and wait for a lab to deliver a model to your dentist's office to create the new crown. This would be installed at a second appointment in two or three weeks.

With 3D printing, this process can be completed in one visit. A wand digitally scans your mouth, and the resulting file image can be precisely measured with computer-aided design (CAD) software to develop the crown. The file is sent to the printer, and the crown can be manufactured in minutes.

Dental implants

Developing implants to replace lost teeth generally takes days or weeks to prepare. With 3D scanning and printing, dentists can skip the step of creating a physical mold of the teeth and gums, and generate the implant for immediate installation.

If your dentist is using this technology, ask for a pre-treatment estimate so you know what your dental plan covers.

Innovation brings exciting care options, and your dentist, orthodontist and other dental specialists can provide guidance in taking the best care of your smile.