Astronauts and cyclists aren’t the only ones making headlines in regards to 3-D printers any longer. Orthodontists are too. With the rise in popularity and accessibility of 3-D printing, advanced technology continues to allow scientists and engineers to reach new innovative and practical levels.
Orthodontists in the United States are now incorporating 3-D printing into their business and healthcare model. Maryland based orthodontists at Smile Fredricks have developed a system that allows patients to forgo the often uncomfortable process of creating clay molds for expanders, retainers, and other oral appliances in favor of a much less gag-inducing option.
New technology now allows these doctors to insert small cameras in patients mouths, which scan the structure of the mouth and alignment of teeth, recording the measurements in a computer database. These measurements will eventually be translated by a 3-D printer into a mold from which the patient’s oral appliances will be modeled after. Benefits of the new technology include accuracy in teeth models, as well as efficiency in the creation and duplication of the models. Though the new 3-D printing method is five times more expensive than the traditional alginate clay mold process, doctors site the ease of use, increased patient satisfaction, and digital archival system (in case a patient should lose or break their appliances, an easy duplicate can be made) as worthwhile advantages.
And while 3-D printing is currently at the forefront of orthodontics, numerous technological advances have been made in the field over the past two decades. Many doctors, such as Miami Orthodontist Dr. Derek Sanders, now utilize advanced “space age materials” like nickel titanium in braces wire to allow for gentler straightening of teeth. Additionally, the arrival of Invisalign and invisible braces in have been a popular option offered by orthodontists as a way to bypass the aesthetics of metal braces as a much more subtle option for teeth straightening, bite fixing, and overall oral alignment.
As technology continues to advance, it will be inevitable that orthodontics, as well as other healthcare, automotive, and manufacturing industries will continue to break down innovative barriers in the years to come.