The Advantages and Possibilities of 3D Printing for Any Dental Practice

While 3D printing has been available for dental practices for several years, there have still been roadblocks for many dentists and team members when it comes to incorporating the technology into their treatment mix.

One of the biggest barriers has been a lack of understanding of what benefits 3D printing can provide for patients, as well as how it fits into the overall digital technology flow of the practice. With those thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at the current state of 3D printing and what its introduction into a practice could look like.

Steps to understanding 3D printing

First and foremost, if you’re considering taking first steps down the path of 3D printing, it’s important to connect with colleagues who have already used this technology in their practice, as well as engage with industry experts, such as your sales rep or contact within your 3D printing company of choice. Having the opportunity to pick their brains and learn from their previous successes and failures can go a long way toward building confidence in using the technology on a daily basis.

Additionally, having contact with the manufacturer and following their instructions carefully are critical to the technology’s success in your practice.

Asking questions along the way is also an essential part of the 3D printing discovery process and should involve three key elements. Bear in mind that these questions and the subsequent decisions will likely take some thought and planning — including discussions with experts in the field — to help you navigate through choices and find exactly what is right for you and your patients.

The first element: understanding the material choices available to use in 3D printing. Part of this is deciding what you will be using the technology for in your business, including such applications as orthodontic appliances, surgical guides and more.

The second element: comprehending the scanning options and which ones will be used. Will the case be scanned directly using an intraoral scanner or will an impression be taken and then scanned on a desktop? This is an important question to be answered along the digital workflow path.

The third element: learning which software choices are available to keep the technology in-house or outsource the work. Understanding which is best for your business model is important and will likely involve a discussion with the manufacturer and/or dealer, as well as any dental labs with which you currently work.

3 reasons to use 3D printing

How can 3D printing boost your business? Below, we examine three main areas to explore about this technology and why it should be considered for your practice.

Expanding your current digital workflow. The term “digital workflow” has been a buzzword in dentistry for many years, but it’s still not used to its fullest potential in many practices. How does 3D printing fit into the workflow? With the right understanding, training and technology, 3D printing can be introduced seamlessly into your practice’s daily routine. For example, an intraoral scan can be combined with cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) to produce what is needed for a 3D printed surgical guide. Also, digital dentures can incorporate 3D printing in the early stages, resulting in substantial cost savings and fewer visits.

Achieving high-quality, precise results. Think about the potential issues that can occur using a traditional model, including breakage and the need for remakes. With 3D printing, models can be printed (and reprinted again, if needed) with precision from digital scans in under 30 minutes.

Fewer steps needed. A lower number of steps from a case’s start to finish means a lower number of opportunities for error to be introduced into the mix. Additionally, fewer steps mean less time and resources invested. Simply put, with fewer steps involved, your team will be less prone to error. It also means faster workflows, shorter delivery times and fewer appointments, which is a plus for both the practice and the patient.

The importance of team in the success of 3D printing

Naturally, having a technology-savvy dental team member who can assist with any 3D printing needs is important, but also consider the importance of marketing this technology as well. Who on your team could talk about the benefits of the technology with your patients? Who on your team can be an advocate on social media to help spread the message of the technology’s arrival and why you chose to incorporate it into your treatment mix?

Who are the key players on your team who are willing to learn and scale their skills to become the experts, and then train others to do the same? Answering these questions ahead of time can help lay the foundation for 3D printing to be a success for you and your business.

Technology as a “north star”

The term “north star” is often viewed as something that helps guide our decisions and keeps us on our intended path, both personally and professionally.

Thinking professionally, a “north star” for all dentists and team members should be improving not only their patients’ oral health, but also their experience in any dental setting. When thinking about what is truly best for patients, that often involves using the latest and most advanced technology to make the dental experience faster, easier and better.

By getting your team on board with technology advances, acquiring the pertinent resources, committing to learning and training — and expanding to new applications as your skills grow together with your team — your practice will not only set itself apart from the competition, but will also be a place where everyone on the team feels excited about their daily schedule, as well as what is coming next.


There are many 3D printing options available for today’s dental practice. Connecting with experts who can help you decide which particular machine is the right fit for your practice and how it will impact your treatment mix and patient offerings is a key part of ensuring success. With the right mindset and the right team, any questions about 3D printing can quickly be eliminated.

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