Three-Dimensional Printer Technology Approved for Dentures

Laird Harrison

August 18, 2015

The first-ever three-dimensional (3D) printer system to manufacture denture bases has been cleared for marketing by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Although currently designed for use in laboratories, the Dentca Denture Base may soon allow dentists to make dentures in their offices, said Dentca Chief Executive Officer Sun Kwon in a news release.

"This clearance completely revolutionizes the denture manufacture process, which has barely changed in over 100 years," he added.

As currently approved, the system begins with a traditional casting impression of the oral region in the dentist office. This impression goes to a dental laboratory for conversion to a digital image in an optical impression system. The denture base is then made layer by layer in a stereolithographic laser printer, after which it is fitted with preformed plastic teeth and cured in a light chamber. The dentures are then sent back to the dentist to be fitted and for final adjustment.

In clearing the Dentca system, the US Food and Drug Administration ruled it was similar enough to the Dentsply Trubyte Denture Base Resin System that Dentca did not need to show evidence of safety and efficacy.

In both the Dentca and Dentsply systems, the bases are created in multiple layers, each of which is light-cured before adding the next layer, with postcuring added in a light chamber.

In the Dentca system, however, a stereo lithographic additive printer creates the layers, while in the Dentsply system, they are created manually by laboratory technicians.

"3D dentures have a huge potential to provide above-standard-care quality of denture treatment in underserved areas anywhere in the world by improving much more standardized digital denture protocols and measurements," Hiroshi Hirayama, DDS, DMD, told Medscape Medical News.

Dr Hirayama experimented with the new technology both at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he conducted prosthodontics research until retiring last year, and in his private practice, also in Boston.

Patients were very satisfied with the 3D printed dentures, except when they had unstable bites resulting in a poor fit, he said.

"Dental schools should get the digital dentures in the curriculum and teach students how to do it," he said.

In the future, digital scanning, such as the systems used in computer-aided design and manufacturing, may facilitate the digital construction of denture bases as well, said Dr Hirayama.

But even those dentists who become comfortable with the technology may not be ready to install 3D printers in their offices because of the expense, he added.

Still, the potential is large, Dentca says. In its press release, Dentca cited an estimate by SmarTech Markets Publishing that dental hardware, materials, and components enabled by 3D printing will constitute a $2 billion market in 2016, rising to $3.1 billion by 2020.

Dr Hirayama has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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