Trends in Denture Fabrication
Common between dentists and patients is that they find traditional impressions, bite techniques, try-in appointments, and adjustments problematic and time-consuming. When it comes to taking impressions and bites traditionally, it can take a lot of time and attempts to get right. The bulky technology of traditional scanning makes it difficult to scour certain areas of the mouth– specifically the soft ridge. According to Jimmy Stegall, Dental Lab Operations and Management Executive at Dentsply, there are no schools in the United States that teach or promote scanning of the soft ridge because it is simply not viable.
Furthermore, the number of try-in and adjustment appointments typically causes a lot of frustration for all parties involved. There are often more than five appointments per patient in order to get a good and comfortable fit. When it comes to taking impressions traditionally, there is a calculated way that is time-consuming to make sure everything is captured correctly in the impression. Border molding, making sure the tray is horizontal, capturing the buccal vestibule, and making sure there are no voids in the impression are key in the first step. Making dentures the traditional way is simply tedious and difficult, but having follow-up appointments is necessary for each adjustment. Manually, it is almost impossible to get the right fit without making adjustments. It is not uncommon for patients to end up in a long drawn-out try-in loop.
Moreover, not only is the number of appointments a problem, but the time in between each to make adjustments is frustrating too. Traditional milling typically takes about 3 hours with 30 minutes for one arch of setting teeth, another 40 minutes to do the wax around the teeth, and another hour to set the dentures. Fortunately, advancements in technology have provided a solution to decrease the time needed for both processes to help dentists and labs catch up to the high demand for dentures with digital dentures. Digital is proven to increase efficiency and scalability.
How Has Dental Technology Changed Over Time?
Most aspects of dentistry have been heavily affected by technology. Dentistry has seen a lot of advancements in recent decades, whether it's improving current techniques or completely replacing past tools with new inventions. All parties involved benefit from technological evolution as many procedures can now be completed more quickly and accurately with fewer steps, appointments, and adjustments.
Newer techniques are more dependable thanks to the digitized workflow. Using programmed software, dental restorations can now be precise and have more individualization upon request. Designing and production are made easier and quicker with computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems that allow the technicians to visualize and alter their restorations on a computer. Without having to manually sculpt the restoration or taking the time to wait for it to be set, technicians can make any potential changes on the screen and see what the end result will look like even before production. Every change is recorded and saved onto the computer, meaning technicians can retrieve, duplicate, send, and store their designs with a click of a button.
Also, digital dental products are 3D printed, a manufacturing process directed by computer software to layer and build using resin. Liquid resin is layered on a stationary plate and exposed to a light source that cures it into a solid material. The stacked layers form the walls of a three-dimensional object. The benefit of using 3D printing is that it’s much more timely and there is no room for human error. The time it takes for technicians to physically mold and sculpt the dental product is completely eliminated and because the printing is directed by computer, errors are extremely limited.
Thanks to improvements in dental technology, newer techniques are less invasive and result in a more natural appearance of restorations. The introduction of digital photography, intraoral scanners, 2-dimensional digital radiography, and 3-dimensional cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans have made capturing the inside of the mouth much faster, simpler, and more efficient while preserving the original tissue simultaneously. Previous technology and method required bulky machinery that made it difficult to comfortably get the back of the mouth and photograph certain angles. New technology in dentistry is light and easy to wield around the mouth, can capture photos of the teeth in real time, and be paired with advanced display screens. Captured images can be zoomed in or out, enhanced, and highlighted to evaluate, diagnose, and communicate our patient’s oral condition. Pathology can now be detected and identified at its earliest stages. New dental technology can also assess other spacing and cosmetic-related concerns with the teeth, and evaluate how the teeth should align and bite together.
Overall, advancements in dental technology have:
What are Digital Dentures?
Digital dentures are created with technology throughout the entire process–from start to finish. Impressions are taken using intraoral scanners, transmitted to CAD/CAM software for editing, and either 3D printed or 3D milled. The occlusion, contacts, contour, and characterization are perfectly captured and calibrated. Through the design software, 3D computerized dentures are made remotely by dental technicians based on the scans. They are custom-made to fit the specific curvature of the patient’s dental arch. Allowing for uniform thickness of baseplates, minimization of physical handling, optimization of material used for less waste, and complete individualization, manufacturing parameters are applied. With each denture, specifications are noted, including lip measurements, gingival tissue, marking of the midline and occlusion types, class I, II, or III. We can return a milled PMMA prototype for try-in, or a wax try-in. Adjustments can be made in wax or on digital files and both can be finalized for a digital denture. Any adjustments needed can also be corrected on the computer virtually. However, the fitting of the prosthesis is so accurate that fewer appointments are needed overall.
Digital dentures are designed to look as life-like as possible. The materials used result in an aesthetic and natural appearance that seamlessly blends in the mouth. When it comes time to replace the dentures, every set will be identical and consistent with one another because the storage of the CAD/CAM design allows technicians to retrieve previous files at any time. The technology captures every change, the digital denture design is saved indefinitely, treatment is tracked electronically, and patient data and health history are stored and accessed remotely.
After printing, the components are cleaned, trimmed, cured, and polished. The material of choice for 3D printing dentures is light-cured methacrylate resin. The resin does not change or shift while curing, yielding a more accurate and closer fit to the original palette and mouth tissues. The material is stronger than traditional acrylic, meaning that they last longer for the patient, and do not need to be replaced often as they are made to optimally withstand the oral environment.
The overall process for obtaining digital dentures is accelerated with only three steps. At the initial appointment between the dentist and the patient, scans are taken, recorded, put into a digital file, and sent over to the dental lab via the computer. The lab scans the preliminary impressions and produces the digital image. The lab then designs, prints, and forwards the final dentures to the office where the dentist will either accept or request alterations. Lastly, at the second appointment, the patient receives the dentures and the doctor seats them properly.
Digital Dentures vs. Traditional Dentures
The advantages of digital dentures drastically overpower those of traditionally-milled dentures. The entire process is much more efficient as it is less invasive, reduces the number of visits required with almost no need for adjustments, is less labor-intensive, and is less costly.
The comfort of patients is drastically increased because of the advanced technology. Thanks to the simplicity of intraoral scanners, patients can be in and out of the office in just a few minutes. As everything else in the fabrication process can be done remotely, the patient only has to wait shortly to receive the dentures–nothing else. Previously with conventional dentures, patients were required to attend multiple office visits and sometimes required numerous providers. The precision granted by the CAD/CAM software results in an optimal fit and only involves a single provider. Conventional dentures require more appointments to address realignment and adjustment issues. As the fabrication process is done by hand, human error often occurs and is the reason for the multiple try-ins. The technology also allows for customization, allowing customers to achieve their ultimate level of comfort.
With CAD/CAM technology, errors in impressions or intra-oral scans can be addressed and allow the lab to quickly communicate with the dentist regarding the case to rectify the issues. Moreover, 3D printers eliminate the time it takes to gather the materials or bond them together. The materials are already within the system and the teeth are printed, bonded into place, and light-cured. The software also means less labor is required because almost all that is required from the technician is designing on the computer, which can be completed in just a few minutes. Multiple products can also be printed simultaneously, reducing processing time. When it comes to replacing dentures, the storage system of digital dentures means technicians can quickly and easily produce an exact copy. With traditional dentures, the entire process needs to be started over, including taking impressions, bite registration, wax try-ins, and making adjustments. Most people need to replace their conventional dentures every five to ten years due to loss, breakage, or natural wear and tear. On the other hand, the resin used to fabricate digital dentures is eight times stronger than acrylic for traditional dentures, resulting in less chance of damage, and longer-lasting durability.
Lastly, digital dentures can be made at a fraction of the cost of traditionally-milled dentures. Using CAD/CAM saves a lot of money because all impression work and appointments are avoided. Material costs are significantly reduced because of the resin and lack of bonding needed. Labor costs are also significantly reduced because computers and 3D printers do the majority of the work. The cost of digital dentures, but the overall total value provided exceeds that of conventional dentures. With a digital workflow, comfort is increased, patients get a better bite and fit, there are complete individualization options, fever appointments are needed, and the replacement process is quicker.
How Can The Dental Lab Help?
The Dental Lab in Bristol, Pennsylvania is a full-service dental lab with over 35 years of business. We are a leading lab in America that provides 3D virtual printing of digital dentures. We stay up-to-date with the latest technology and techniques in dentistry so that we can provide our clients and their patients with the most effective treatment solutions. In order to make sure we are getting the most cost-effective, aesthetic, and dependable product, one of our deepest relationships has been nurtured and developed extensively with Cad Blu and 3shape. They have connected and provided us with top-of-the-line products and equipment, making The Dental Lab an authorized retailer for digital dentures. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our products and services, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our technicians are always available and willing to speak.
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The Dental Lab, Digital Dentures, dentures, 3d printing, resin, CAD/CAM, Software, technology, intraoral scanners, computers, digital, dentists
Angel Chang is a Drexel University graduate with a background in Marketing. She has experience with digital analytics, SEO, social media management, content creation, copywriting, and web development.