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Dental 3D Scanning - a New Age Revolution

Published on Feb 01, 2021   -  4 min read


3D scanning is a term we have all come across in relation to large scale industries, aerospace, engineering, and the defense sector. Let us explore how beneficial it has been and its future scope in dentistry that would suit the convenience of both the operator and the patient.


Dental laboratories are usually involved in customizing crowns, bridges, and implants after the dentists take a manual or scanned impression of the patient's teeth. But that is not all! The 3D scanner that the labs use has several additive manufacturing technologies. The extensive applications for dental purposes include creating 3D models, patient guide drills for implants, and storing patient data in a 3D format that can be quickly retrieved to produce dental molds, tools, and products as and when required.

What Is 3D Scanning?

This is a technology used to convert a physical model into a digital 3D computer file, also known as CAD files (Computer-Aided Design). Your dentist usually takes advantage of this digital output technique for faster fabrication and design for customizing teeth, dentures, braces, and aligners (orthodontic treatment), veneers, and crowns. The digital output created by the lab technician is in accordance with patient data. It is as instructed by the dental surgeon that produces customized parts by manufacturing them through Additive Manufacturing technologies (AM technologies). The customized part is designed and usually printed or fabricated according to the anatomy of the teeth in question so that the patient is saved a lot of time at the dentist's office.

Steps to Create a 3D Dental Model:

  1. Developing a physical model for input purposes like the teeth and jaws prior to 3D scanning.
  2. 3D scanning of the jaw or teeth in multiple directions as per the output to be designed.
  3. Exporting the data of different image formats and converting it to a single output file (usually the STL format).
  4. Editing the data - Any edits or modifications to suit the convenience of the patient.
  5. 3D printing - Solid fabrication of the output layer by layer from the 3D scanned and edited patient data.
  6. Quality inspection and surface finishing - The final procedure in the dental model's manufacturing is checking for a quality finish and smooth surface. This has to be thoroughly inspected both by the lab technician and the surgeon before implementing its fit in the patient's mouth. Apart from surface smoothness and checking for any manufacturing defects, it is important to verify the final condition of the scanned model for strength and stress-bearing capacity.

Application of 3D Scanning in Dentistry:

1) Designing Dentures, Bridges, and Implants

This is currently the foremost application of dental scanners. 3D scanners are used to perfectly recreate dental devices by replicating the patient's jaw and teeth in three-dimensional structure for a perfect prosthetic fit in the oral cavity. For example, a denture or a single crown would match the original dimension of an earlier prosthesis or be created afresh by scanning the patient's jaw. In the field of dental implantology, the drill guide sequence adopted varies from patient to patient dimensionally, and yet again, the digitization here is a boon. This digital dentistry approach is greatly useful for dental practitioners because it replaces the traditional time-consuming technique of pouring the plaster model of the patient's mouth and then using that model for dental crown or bridge or device construction. A prosthesis manufactured by 3D technology also gives the patient the best fit model of teeth, ceramic crowns, or maxillofacial prosthesis.

2) Storage and Upgrade of Patient Data, Tools, and Equipment

An innovative and up-to-date dental practice is possible by upgrading patient's data in a long-lasting digital format so that quick retrieval of information is possible. An upgrade of tools and equipment is also easily achievable, especially for modifying dental implants.

3) Restoring and Correcting Old Parts or Devices

Alignment and accurate manufacturing of the dental device is by restoring and correcting at an early stage. Here, final corrections are made before the manufacturing is complete.

4) Education and Training

3D models designing serve a great purpose for aspiring dental and medical professionals or students to better understand the internal and external anatomy of the head and neck compared to simple 2D illustrated pictures. Apart from educational purposes, designing toothbrushes, flossers, or oral mouth shapes for patient demonstration is another innovative benefit that has recently come to light in the pharmaceutical market.

5) Surgical Planning

A 3D model, if produced for the sake of pre-surgical review (before any dental surgery or implantation), provides better planning by the operator, reduces operation time, and reduces surgical risks. The surgeon finds it thus easier to predict the problem and understand better when surgical procedures are more complicated.

Principle of 3D Scanning:

A 3D scanning device works on a principle very similar to that of a camera wherein multiple images are combined to form a digital 3D model that includes several advantages like quick scanning, subsequent CAD files modeling, high-end compatibility with software analysis, and easy printing through high-end lab units (which happens in dental labs for manufacturing crowns, bridges, implants, and orthodontic devices), all of which can improve patient outcomes, the aesthetic value of the end result (dental device), and overall reliability of the process.

Future Scope of 3D Scanning

Apart from dentistry, the same principle and methods are employed in various fields of engineering and medicine. Digitizing medicine and dentistry would prove beneficial both for the doctor and the patient as it improves the reliability of the outcome best suited to the patient's convenience and the doctor's operating or in-clinic time. The complexity of data variation that usually varies from one dentist to the other can be prevented by simple digital customization of patient data that holds true for all present records of the patient and will be useful in long term treatment planning if the patient's problem persists at any other future point of time. This non-contact technology utilized by 3D scanners can provide the best training for quality medical education. AM technologies are also beneficial in printing data in less time and cost.

To conclude thus, 3D scanning, hitherto a part of industrial sciences, arts, defense, and aerospace, is now proving to be equally effective and less time consuming, especially in the fields of medicine and dentistry. It saves both the operator and patient a lot of time in the dental office and improves basic patient compliance. Research and potential in this field is an evolving science that can improve the scope and quality content produced by the lab for dental surgeons resulting in patient-compliant devices and techniques.


Last reviewed at:
01 Feb 2021  -  4 min read


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