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    13 things for labs to look forward to in 2018

    In the new year, labs can expect advances in technology, materials and the lab business itself.


    7. Removables revolution

    Continuing education is always important, and Zegar recommends attending Dentsply Sirona’s Removables Revolution event in Miami on Feb. 9 and 10 at the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel.

    “We live in a world where 23 million people are edentulous and about 15 percent of that population have dentures made each year,” he says. “Not to mention that 18.5 million — 6 percent of the U.S. adult population — wear partial dentures. The time for dentures and partial removables to go digital is upon us. We’ve put together a day-and-a-half event that will walk you through the entire digital removable process for partial frameworks and full dentures.”

    8. Digital smile design

    Jason Atwood, CDT, senior digital solutions advisor, Core3dcentres, expects digital smile design to become much more patient-involved.

    “It’s going to become more consumer-driven, more patient-driven,” Atwood says. “The digital technology helps to involve the patient more.”

    He compares the technology to apps that allow the user to look at how he or she would look with a new haircut or glasses. The same can now be done with smiles.

    Related reading: 8 emerging technologies that will change the dental laboratory

    “It’s getting to the point where you can try a smile on,” Atwood explains. “You can open up an app, input a picture of yourself, and scroll through different smile designs and pick one that you like. It’s going to happen that way, which is kind of cool and kind of scary all at the same time. The demand is there and that is the way it’s going to go.”

    9. Digital prep guides

    Computers will now be able to guide the doctor’s hand based on parameters established by the lab.

    “When you have a patient who needs some prepping done to their teeth, in order to accommodate that, it will now be possible to create a digital prep guide that will guide the doctor’s handpiece to prep the teeth to the required dimensions to accommodate the smile design,” Atwood says. “You won’t have to do it freehand anymore. You’ll have a guide that will specifically take measurements and say, ‘Okay, we need to reduce in this area by exactly 0.8 mm,’ and you’ll have a guide that will snap into place and work like a jig to guide the doctor’s hand to remove just enough in the proper area to accommodate the smile design.”

    10. 3D printing materials

    3D printing technology is gaining more and more popularity in dental labs. However, the materials have not been suitable for long-term restorations. That is expected to change in 2018.

    “We are looking forward to some new materials this year that will help us expand what we can do with a 3D printer,” Atwood says.

    The holdup has been a combination of material science and government regulations.

    “We are seeing an uptick in what we are able to do with 3D printing, rather than milling temps, printing them and things like that,” Ferguson says. “As more and more companies get their materials improved, it kind of makes it easier for other companies to do the same because they can point to a material that it is like.”

    “There are a lot of regulatory things that restrict what we can and can’t do with a 3D printer,” Atwood adds. “But there’s a lot of effort being put into materials that can be biocompatible and 3D printable, and that will really expand what we are able to do. The idea being, we will be able to scan the patient in the doctor’s office and then be able to send that smile design digitally to a 3D printer and print something rather rapidly that would be biocompatible that the patient would be able to take almost right away.”

    Up next: 3D printing ceramics...

    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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