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    How to use 3D printing to simplify occlusal splints

    Occlusal splints don’t have to be complicated or expensive — digital workflows can make them more accessible than ever.

    Completely digital workflows allow laboratories and practices to provide better treatments and clinical outcomes — but they can only gain widespread adoption once they make business sense.

    Occlusal guards, splints and occlusal splints have been prescribed by clinicians and sold over the counter for decades with little change to how they’ve been manufactured. Recently, however, 3D intraoral scanners and 3D printing technologies are becoming widely adopted in the dental industry, opening an opportunity to produce completely digital appliances that have many advantages over their analog counterparts.

    Traditionally the dental laboratory has made occlusal splints by forming acrylic by hand over articulated models, vacuum forming techniques or a combination of both. Using the Formlabs Form 2 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer and Dental LT Resin, dental laboratories and practices can now directly 3D print biocompatible occlusal splints for long-term use. The completely digital workflow that concludes with 3D printing allows for greater control, requires less labor and results in better fitting appliances.

    Figure 1 3Shape TRIOS capturing a digital impressionFig. 1 Occlusal splints are usually prescribed for therapeutic and preventive reasons, but due to poor fittings, cost and the tedious workflow, splints are often under prescribed or not even offered. Experts estimate that one-third of all patients would benefit from occlusal splints, with the most common uses being preventing chips, cracks and tooth wear. Due to its preventive nature, many dentists opt not to prescribe or even recommend the use of occlusal guards — and when offered, patients aren’t typically willing to invest hundreds of dollars into their future oral health. The solution? 3D printing these appliances can meet the cost needs and open a larger market for these products.

    In this article, we’ll provide a breakdown of the full digital workflow as well as process considerations for 3D printing occlusal guards and splints on the Form 2 3D printer using the Dental LT Resin.

    As with any dental appliance or indication, it all starts with the impression. In Figure 1, you can see the use of a 3D intraoral scanner, the 3Shape TRIOS®, to digitally capture an impression of the patient’s mouth. Although it’s best for the workflow to be completely digital, the dentist or assistant can also take a traditional impression and have the impression or model be scanned on a laboratory desktop scanner to digitize the impression.

    Sam Wainwright
    Sam Wainwright is the dental product manager at Formlabs.

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