3D Technology in Dentistry

Three dimensional technology has rapidly changed many industries, including dentistry. Thanks to many of these innovations, care can be delivered to people more quickly with more accuracy and customization than ever before. Let’s look at some of the ways your dentist may be doing things now or soon in the future.

Imaging & Diagnosis

The days of using messy materials to take dental impressions for diagnosis and making appliances will likely be completely behind us within the next five to ten years. ‘Scanning’ technology is now used to capture three dimensional images of teeth for improved diagnosis and to make appliances such as orthodontic aligners, nightguards and crowns for teeth and implant restorations. A scanned image can also allow doctors and patients to view teeth with detailed magnification and track changes in a person’s bite relationship and the rate of tooth wear over time.

Computed tomography (CT) imaging may be best described as a ‘3D digital x-ray.’ It allows us to see hard tissues such as teeth and bone in all three dimensions. This gives us the ability to diagnose problems that conventional x-rays sometimes lack. We can see the precise position of teeth and structures such as nerve canals and sinuses in relation to each other and measure the dimensions of bone for placing implants. Planning for surgical procedures is  more accurate than ever before.

3D digital photography can capture images of people’s faces, smiles and teeth to be integrated with CT images. This allows a dentist to plan comprehensive treatment to improve people’s appearance, or rehabilitate a mouth that’s suffered significant damage from disease or trauma. It also can show someone a ‘preview‘ of how they would likely appear after treatment.

Printing & Milling

Much of dental treatment involves making appliances that move teeth, replace teeth and protect teeth. Increasingly dental laboratories and dentists use software and artificial intelligence to plan and design the custom appliances needed for this. Dental materials such as resins can be 3D printed and ceramics  3D milled to create dentures, mouthguards, crowns, bridges and guides for placing dental implants. This lets your dentist and their lab partners create needed appliances quickly, sometimes even the same day as  your treatment.  Digital copies of prosthetics and appliances are stored for quick replacement in case of breakage or loss.

Although the rapid changes in technology can be challenging to keep up with, the advantages allow us to provide better care more quickly to our patients than ever before.