Here is another in our continuing series of things going on around Rochester. Enjoy!
Going to the dentist has never been much fun; even if you’re one of the few, fortunate patients who doesn’t experience any anxiety before appointments (likely because you brush and floss your teeth every day without fail), managing to get in and get out of the dentist’s office in a reasonable amount of time is nearly impossible.
Luckily, local dental offices in the Rochester area have begun to recognize this frustration, and they’ve been turning to an unlikely source for help: 3-D printers.
Although the printers can’t handle the cleaning and flossing processes in a normal dental appointment, they can provide quick and painless solutions to a variety of cosmetic dental needs, such as tooth reshaping, crown and veneer placement and lengthening, and bonding.
Rather than relying on “gooey, gag-inducing, ‘bite down on this’ molds” to get an accurate replication of a patient’s mouth, dentists are now beginning to use handheld scanners to obtain digital 3-D pictures of the patient’s teeth and gums. After completing the scan, dentists and lab technicians can analyze the patient’s mouth via a computer program before sending instructions to a 3-D printer, which USA Today says is “about the size of a large breadmaker.” The printer immediately creates a custom dental prosthetic, using lasers and computer-controlled drill bits to shape liquid plastic into a prosthetic that perfectly fits the patient’s mouth.
Various independent dental practices have begun implementing the 3-D technology, such as Dr. Randy Raetz’s practice in Brighton, NY and Dr. Cheryl Brunelle’s Lilac Family Dental practice in East Rochester.
But, as USA Today notes, many small dental practices have trouble coming up with the money to pay for the technology. Even though the equipment is certain to be an investment that will pay for itself in the long run, the initial costs of the equipment (about $100,000 for a scanner alone) can be overwhelming — not to mention all of the subsequent training that would be necessary.
However, Rochester might just be the perfect city for dental practices that want to begin implementing 3-D technology. After the University of Rochester’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health completed a renovation worth $1.3 million during 2014, the facility began offering a state-of-the-art postgraduate program that includes training in digital technology and dental needs.
Although the technology is still in its early stages and there are plenty of improvements that will need to be addressed, the success of the technology — primarily because it’s so effective at reducing patient anxiety and human error while creating the oral prosthetics — suggests that 3-D printing is the future of dentistry.