When it comes to performing surgery that will affect people’s looks, especially in an area as small and crowded as the inside of the mouth, people need some reassurance of the outcome. Doctors and dentists have been seeking ways to show people the before and after results of their work – whether to help them sell the procedure or to calm patient fears. In years past, they have turned to illustrations and then computer simulations to show people the proposed change; now, more and more often, they are turning to 3D printing as a way of helping patients understand the outcomes.
3D printing the teeth of individual patients can also help the surgeon to plan the procedure. In effect, they are able to spend as much time as they need examining the teeth without creating discomfort in the patient, without being concerned about stopping and starting, and without increasing patient anxiety.
Formlabs recently interviewed Mr. Duow Grobler from Snap Dental Studio, a dental modeling service based in Johannesburg, South Africa, about their usage of a Form 1+ 3D printer to create reference models. Grobler described the way in which 3D printing has been seamlessly integrated into their normal workflow:
“First, we take impressions of a patient’s mouth and create plaster models. We then create a digital scan of the model, and use software to plan the modifications we’ll make in surgery. To test our results, we print our new design on the Form 1+ 3D printer, fit it on the plaster model and make a template over the printed design and model.”
After the creation of model, it is sent to the dentist who will be performing the procedure so that they can use it to explain the work to be done to their patient and actually be able to show them what they will be doing inside of their mouth during the procedure. Allowing the patient to know exactly what they can expect goes a long way in reassuring the patient.
This way of producing dental models takes the place of previous wax models that took an enormous amount of human energy, in the form of time and attention, to produce. The possibility for producing the models using 3D printing is newer than the technology as the machines themselves have gotten smaller and more affordable; more practices have been able to use this kind of modeling technology.
The results are created in under three hours and I can only imagine the fun that could be had if they were printed with colored filament. As a cautionary note to anyone thinking of printing their own replacement teeth, however, Formlabs notes at the end of the article that while the resin used is perfect for model building, it is not approved for medical procedures – in other words, don’t go making your own dentures… just yet.
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