What are digital dentures?
Digital dentures are dentures fabricated through a digital process. The system is a marriage of manufacturing hardware, design software, and innovations in material composition. The process uses dental CAM/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) to create precision-made 3D-printed prostheses. Digital aids the collaboration between the dentist and dental laboratory, making the outcomes more efficient and predictable.
Based on captured digital dental impressions and records, a dental technician uses computer software to create and customize dentures virtually. Captured impressions are transmitted to the denture laboratory where they are crafted into full-mouth restorations. Virtual computerized mock-ups are designed based on the captured records. The digital designs are then brought to fruition through additive 3D printing or subtractive machine milling.
Digital Denture Workflow
The digital denture process is simple and efficient. For dentists, the workflow consists of 3 main steps:
1. Take a preliminary impression of the edentulous area
2. Take the bite registration
3. Seat the final denture
An optional step may occur if the dentist and patient decide to use a try-in. This is the step where adjustments may be requested before the final denture is made and seated.
For the dental laboratory, there are two main steps:
1. Design the denture through CAD/CAM software
2. Create, process, and finish the final denture
If a custom tray or try-in is requested, the dental lab will also fabricate those.
The digital denture workflow begins with an impression. Impressions can be made traditionally with alginate impergum and molding materials or they can be digital and captured with an intraoral scanner. Intraoral scanners directly capture images of the oral cavity, then outputs a 3D file that will be used for designing. Regardless of the impression-taking method, digital software is used to ensure a well-fitting and functional end product. Applying dental CAD/CAM allows fine adjustments to be archived and helps to achieve a more accurate fit for the definitive prosthesis.
For fully edentulous patients, the bite registration needs to be recorded with either a bite block or a custom tray.
Impressions and bite registrations are then sent to the dental lab where they are scanned, stored, and entered as a work ticket.
Digital dentures can be fabricated in different ways: through additive 3D printing or subtractive digital milling. Both methods use computer software to direct the machines. Complete full dentures are created through 3D printing. During the process, liquid resin is poured onto a stationary plate in increments and layers until the desired shape is reached. The material of choice is a gum-colored, light-cured methacrylate resin. Every layer is extremely thin and exposed to a curing light source to harden the material. The layers are stacked to create the final denture baseplate. The artificial teeth are separately printed, and then later bonded to their respective baseplates. Partial dentures are created with milling machines. Dental CAD/CAM is used to direct the milling to achieve a precise and accurate fit.
The prosthesis can be manufactured directly as a definitive restoration or as a denture try-in. A try-in allows the clinician and patient to preview the future denture. At this time, they test the fit, function, and appearance before the final prosthesis is made. The tooth shade, position, and aesthetics can be confirmed by the patient. Parameters and adjustments will be altered accordingly when the try-in returns to the lab. If the try-in design is accepted, the next step is to fabricate the definitive prosthesis.
After printing or milling, the denture components are cleansed and trimmed free of their manufacturing supports. The technician then attaches the printed denture teeth to the respective baseplates by hand. To finish off, the digital denture is cured, polished, and characterized. Polishing helps make the denture smooth, free of roughness, and easier to maintain hygiene. Characterization allows for the prosthesis to look as natural as possible and seamlessly blend in with the patient’s mouth.
Digital Dentures vs. Traditional Dentures
Compared to traditional dentures, digital dentures offer numerous advantages. The digital workflow provides a cost-effective solution that is less labor-intensive and less invasive to the patient. Additionally, digital significantly helps reduce overall treatment time, processing, and eliminate errors associated with analog workflows.
Digital imaging can be done in minutes with maximum comfort for the patient. Intraoral scanners eliminate the need for traditional molding materials. If an error occurs in the initial impression, the scan can simply be taken again. Only the area that has a mistake needs to be scanned over, not the entire mouth. Moreover, the risk of gagging is reduced because the scanner hovers over the oral environment.
Digital designs are reusable, shareable, and modifiable. The digital archive is helpful when it comes to referencing or duplicating cases. As each step and adjustment is recorded and saved, the technician has easy and quick access to all previous digital cases. For case remakes, there is no need to take impressions or bite registrations again.
Having the impressions saved as digital files also allows for quicker communication with the lab. If adjustments need to be made, the possibility of a collaborative discussion between the lab, doctor, and patient is easier, and can solve any issues without having to reintroduce the shipping phase.
3D-printed dentures can be provided to the clinic within a day. During the design phase, corrections and adjustments that previously could take hours to work on can now be completed in 10 to 15 minutes. A direct 3D-printed prosthetic allows for fewer steps and patient visits. Digital dentures can be delivered in as few as three clinical appointments: initial impression, bite registration, and delivery.
Dental CAD/CAM technology allows dentures to be designed and fabricated to precise specifications by 3D manufacturing equipment. As a result, the patient receives a prosthesis that provides comfort, retention, and a secure fit. For the laboratory and clinician, a digital workflow offers less variability and consistent quality.
Despite the initial implementation cost of a digital workflow, the cost to manufacture is decreased dramatically. With automation set in place, labor costs are reduced. In turn, denture prices remain relatively stable compared to those of traditional dentures.
3D Dentures Near Me
The Dental Lab is at the forefront of dental technology and consistently produces reliable digital dentures. Our lab makes submitting impressions simple. Visit our Send a Case page to learn how to pair your intraoral scanner with our lab. We accept all major companies to provide a simplified and streamlined denture process. Contact us today to send in your first case.
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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.