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    The top 10 developments in dental technology in 2017

    2017 has been a year of advancements ­— not in tools themselves, but in how they impact the industry.

     

    3D printer

    8. 3D printing technology      

    Another established technology that’s become more prevalent this year is 3D printing. According to Ferguson, it has exploded. 

    “With some of the less expensive 3D printers that are available now, they’re affordable for most dental labs,” he says. “The idea of digitizing complete workflows is becoming more of a reality for some labs that haven’t wanted to go as digital. It’s really exciting. 

    “People are developing workflows where they print a solid model and then individual dies, which is working really well. The fit of those two pieces isn’t as reassuring with a stone model. 

    Trending article: 7 ways 3D printing is changing everything

    “A lot of how we handle models in the lab is going to be determined by the rate at which doctors get intraoral scanners,” he continues. “There are very few that I speak to that have no interest in intraoral scanning. The one stumbling block that a lot of doctors have is that they don’t want to invest in a technology that will be obsolete in a year. They think that if they wait a year, things will be drastically better.” 

    To that, Ferguson says, he asks what they’re looking to see improve. Because with the accuracy and convenience of 3D printing, the only question dentists should ask themselves is when is the right time for them to buy. 

    “None of this is a hardware upgrade waiting until next year,” he says. “It’s just a determination of when it’s right for you to purchase. It’s like looking at a cell phone. Will the next iPhone be better? Yes, but the iPhone that you bought last year is not obsolete.” 

    Trending article: Why the future looks bright for 3D printing

    3D printing will take off even more once the FDA approves 3D printing materials for long-term use in the mouth such as the REPLICATE Tooth by Natural Dental Implants AG, a tooth that was unveiled at the International Dental Show in Cologne this year. 

    The REPLICATE Tooth looks much like a natural tooth, only the root is titanium. The zirconia abutment is fused on top, resulting in a beautiful restoration that offers a more immediate and less-invasive option, as it can be manufactured to fit into the patient’s current tooth socket. Circumventing the need to drill, the REPLICATE Tooth could potentially result in faster treatment and healing times. The company is awaiting approval by the FDA, at which point we could see it as a potential treatment option in the U.S. 

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