Shank Center for Dentistry
A Great Dentist

3D Printing in Dentistry

3D Printed Oral Appliance | General Dentist Indianapolis IN

Hey everybody, Dr. Shank here.  It’s a Wednesday, and since we don’t typically schedule patients on Wednesdays, I’m in the office getting a little bit of work done.  Wanted to share a couple of things with you that are a little different that most of you may not be aware of. 

The Alternative to Messy Dental Impressions

Nobody likes getting an impression taken of their mouth, right?  You know what I’m talking about…the mouth full of ‘goopy’ putty that takes several minutes to set up, doesn’t taste great, people tend to gag on, and just, in general, it’s not a pleasant experience.  Now instead of taking those big long goopy impressions, we’ve got another way where we can get an impression and a model of your mouth, and that’s by using a digital impression.  We use a small camera called an ‘intraoral scanner’ that basically takes a bunch of pictures of the teeth and stitches them all together into a digital model. 

Get An Accurate Physical Model of Your Teeth

Now sometimes we still need an actual physical model for whatever the case is that we’re doing, so we’re able to take those models, send them to a 3D printer, and print the models up here in the office.  We get a physical model, it’s more accurate, it’s quicker, it’s a whole lot more comfortable for our patients, and it avoids a lot of the uncomfortable, goopy, putty mess in the mouth.  Now, I’m going to show you how that process works!

3D Dental Printing

So this is our 3D printer.  Right now it’s printing up a couple of models that we need for a surgical case that we have coming up.  It does take a bit of time to actually print.  As you’ll see here this print just started a few minutes ago and it’s going to take about another four hours to get this set of models knocked out, so I’m going to let this run while I’m getting a few other things done.  Just to give you an idea of how this thing works, we have a tub of resin down here in the base, and we have a platform that drops down into the tub of resin.  Now in the base of the printer underneath the resin, there’s a laser that shoots up from below and cures the resin to the platform that you see sitting down in the tank of resin.  The platform is then going to lift up, there’s a wiper that smooths out the resin, and then the platform lowers back down again and cures the next layer.  It does that in layers anywhere from 100 microns at a time down to 25 microns at a time.  So this is really super-fine detail that we can capture and reproduce and get a really stunning looking model.  Once we get the models coming out of the printer, they’ll be ready for whatever it is that we need to do with them, and I’ll show you what those look like.

3D Models Completed

So this is what a set of models looks like when they come out of our 3D printer.  This is a full-arch model and the printer puts them on these supports that you see around the edge here to help make sure everything prints predictably.  This particular model here, full arch with all the teeth (except the wisdom teeth) so we’re not talking about a small or shortened area, that only take about 60 seconds for us to capture the full data for this so we can have everything we need to generate a 3d-printed model.  It’s a lot faster, more accurate, and a lot more comfortable for our patient than the mouth full of goopy putty.  So we’ve got our model here, we’re going to break the supports off of it, and when we do, we get a model like this one (this is the lower arch), similar situation, we made these hollow to conserve how much resin it takes to print these, makes them print a little faster and doesn’t cost quite as much to print them.  But we have a full model here, and this particular case is one that we need a physical set of models for, so we’re going to send these to the lab and have them make an appliance on them for us.

Contact Us

So there you go.  We’ve got a full set of impressions for a patient’s mouth with none of the goopy impression material, and we’ve actually gotten a much more accurate impression and model here in a much more comfortable manner.  If you have any questions, give us a call at (317) 350-1534 or check us out online at  Thanks for watching, and we look forward to seeing you!


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