3D Printing in Orthodontics Brings Evolution to the Practice in Four Steps

3D Printing in Orthodontics

3D printing in orthodontics is having a positive impact on dentistry and subsequently improving the availability of a beautiful smile for all people. New technologies and new materials are making it possible to build orthodontic appliances and replacements more efficiently, more economically, and with more precision than ever before. If you have been thinking about making the change to digital, let us narrow the process down to four simple steps. Chances are you already have the first two in place.

Straight Forward Lab is the perfect partner if you would like to outsource the third and fourth steps. So as we walk through the process, don’t fret. We can always ease the burden by cutting your workload in half. So what exactly are those steps I am talking about? They are the steps to completely digitize your orthodontic practice: scanning, planning, printing, and thermoforming. Let’s break it down.

3D Printing in Orthodontics

3D Printing in Orthodontics Begins with Scanning

Your digital orthodontic office opens with the capture of 3D impressions of your patient’s teeth and jaw using an intraoral scanner. In fact, the act of capturing the impression scan is always the first step in your digital workflow.

Intraoral scanners are a great improvement over the first digital dental scanners introduced in the 1980s. Intraoral scanners today are a small, smooth wand that feeds data to a computer running specialized software. The small wand scans all parts of the oral cavity providing detailed data that it captures. Not incidentally, smaller wands are more comfortable for patients, so they are less likely to induce a gag response or to require a patient to hold their mouth wide open during the scanning procedure.

Unlike the messy molds of the past, the wand glides along the surfaces of the teeth capturing data points. It automatically registers the sizes and shapes of each tooth. The software then builds a precise impression of the oral cavity. In just a few minutes, the system produces a detailed digital map in your software.

Digital Model


The Second Key to Digital Success is Software

When it comes to 3D printing in orthodontics, third-party software is your key to good planning. The orthodontic treatment software you select helps you control costs while designing and delivering the best treatment plans and appliances. Speaking with other orthodontists and studying reviews online can help you determine what software might work best for your patients’ needs. Doing this prior to meeting with vendors will help you accumulate the knowledge to ask the right questions.

The software you choose makes it easier than ever to monitor tooth movement and fabricate appliances with macro precision while digitally managing records. Also, lost or broken appliances are a quick fix with digital files at your fingertips and a 3D lab nearby. Just send the file to your lab partner, such as Straight Forward Lab, and the replacement is ready before you know it.

The Third Easy Step to 3D Printing in Orthodontics

It is important to understand the capabilities of 3D printing in orthodontics. Given the types and varieties of materials and the models currently available and the evolution of printing, it can be one of the best cost-saving measures in your digital office. Typically in this category, you will benefit from about seven types of models. For example, you can get printed models including horseshoe arches or arches with low profile bases. In addition, you can get direct metal prints and clear thermoform retainers.

Printed molds can be used to make retainers quickly and accurately. Everything is custom to your mouth, down to the micrometer!

Replacements that used to take weeks, now only require a day or two if printed through a local partner. Same thing goes for aligners and you control every step of the process including materials. This increases overall safety and peace of mind.

invisible braces

Step Four is Getting That Aesthetic Look with Thermoforming

3D printed clear aligners are a smart development in orthodontic care that provides discreet orthodontic treatment for esthetically-minded patients. Clear thermoform retainers are available locally in the Oklahoma City area. Straight Forward Lab manufactures retainers utilizing several options of materials. We offer the Essix line of products (with Essix ACE being our most popular) as well as Zendura. Zendura is a great choice for patient comfort, decreased movement times, and increased durability. If you require a different material from one that we currently offer, please reach out to us. We can obtain many more materials.

3D printed clear aligners are commonly known under the brand name Invisalign. Printed clear aligners are clear, thin, comfortable, and safe plastic aligners that fit over your teeth. Using your 3D printed molds, the orthodontist makes digital models to digitally align your teeth in sequential order. A series of aligners move your teeth ever closer to the final position. By the end of the clear aligner series, your teeth align and your bite improves.

Want to learn more about partnering your digital orthodontic or dentist office with a 3D lab? Contact us today at Straight Forward Lab.