Digital Dentistry makes an Impression

Departments - Features

The old days of dentistry are gone as the 3D printing technology bullet train accelerates a pace of change.

April 2, 2012
Avi Cohen

As the cost of laboratory work is becoming a major factor in dental restoration planning and therapy, and in pricing, some forward-thinking dental labs are adopting digital dentistry processes to set themselves apart. In recent years, dental restorations based on software design have become common and most dental companies now have access to 3D printing, whether in the dental practice, laboratory, or via production centers. This opens valuable benefits to dental companies, including:

  • Access to new, almost defect-free, industrially-prefabricated and controlled materials
  • Higher quality and reproducibility
  • Data storage commensurate with a standardized chain of production
  • Improved precision planning, and efficiency

Hands Not Enough
Dental technicians traditionally rely on steady hands and expert eyes to prepare crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays, veneers, and frameworks. Although often considered artists, the manual process is time-consuming, imprecise, and requires materials that might not provide the best durability or aesthetic appearance. Basis of the known digital workflow is on a few steps, which usually are:

  • Scan (using 3D scanner, intra-oral scanner, or impression scanner),
  • CAD, where software is being used to design the end product based on the scanning data
  • CAM, which often includes transferred data to CNC systems using traditional milling concept

Rapid manufacturing is about to offer an affordable and attractive option for dentists and patients. The old days when dentists had to ladle quantities of goo into a patient’s mouths to take impressions for the construction of crowns, bridges, and implants has gone.

LEFT: Once an intraoral scanner captures patient dental information, it goes to a dental lab where milling or 3D printing machines craft the artificial dentition. RIGHT: Dental technicians traditionally rely on steady hands and expert eyes to prepare crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays, veneers, and frameworks.


Instead, exciting new high technology has been developed that will do a two-minute digital scan of a patient’s entire set of teeth. Once the information is captured by an intraoral scanner, which the dentist passes around the teeth, it is delivered to a dental lab where milling or 3D printing machines are used to craft the artificial dentition, most of which is now made from zirconium dioxide. In the past, gold and platinum had been the materials of choice.

Therefore, the 3D printing technology bullet train continues to accelerate the pace of change in dentistry. For those who have predicted the day of digital handling – everything from scheduling to finished restoration – the day is here.

Intraoral scanners and the software that manages them continue to improve on proven models. Now, one can see the astounding diagnostic possibilities provided by cone beam CT scanners, as scan speed and image capture and enhancement capabilities continue to improve at record speed.

1. 3D printing, combined with digital imaging, delivers the potential for companies to become a fully digital dental lab. 2. Use of 3D printing for dental parts can provide faster delivery times while maintaining high quality standards. 3. Manual preparation of crowns, inlays, bridges, etc. is slow, unpredictable, and requires use of non-ideal materials, but changes with the use of 3D printing. 4. With the precise, detailed 3D image of the impression, CAD software reconfigures the negative form into a positive 3D representation of the prepared teeth. 5. Use of 3D printing enables companies to maintain high dental model accuracy while increasing fabrication throughput.


Most impressive this year has been the explosion in devices dedicated to digital imaging, impressioning, and CAD/CAM fabrication of restorations – both chairside and in the lab. With the roll out of new systems, materials, and capabilities in the coming year, many believe that more dentists will begin to see the technology as a viable alternative for their practices.

To summarize the moving trend: Some day in the near future, we may look back at 2012 as the year when the dental laboratory industry passed the point of no return from a traditional manual workflow toward an all-digital design and manufacture process. In many respects, all-digital dentistry is already here, and a growing number of laboratory owners have incorporated digital dentistry in some form into their strategic business models. For many dental professionals, this evolution has been a long-awaited and welcome transition to a more rapid and labor-saving CAD/CAM automation that improves quality and precision while keeping businesses competitive.

Dental Assessment

Data capture systems launched recently has expanded the entire concept of digital dentistry for practices and laboratories alike. Through intense R&D, manufacturers have created 3D scanning systems engineered to capture data from the negative spaces inside tray impressions in the laboratory or even in the practice. With the precise, detailed 3D image of the impression, CAD software reconfigures the negative form into a positive 3D representation of the prepared teeth. Working from this virtual model, the technician can design any of a number of different components. The view of this type of technology is often as a transitional step for eager laboratories, those seeing the benefits afforded by digital dentistry, but those who want to accommodate dentist-clients who prefer traditional tray impressions.

For dentists who are ready, willing, and able to integrate digital impression technology, systems are available that move the digital process back to the oral preparation site. By scanning the actual tooth prep and creating a digital impression, the accuracy of the data capture enhances, and the digital restorative process begins sooner. For laboratories working with these progressive doctors, all that is required is an investment in design software (and corresponding training), with manufacturing of components outsourced to production facilities. From this point on, the 3D printing technology will take on a life of its own, presenting fast printing of accurate 3D models required by dentistry.

The question remains, however. When will dentists step off the platform and take advantage of these amazing tools, instead of watching the bullet train of advancement pass them by?

Printing Systems
The Objet Eden260V 3D Printing system provides the ideal solution for dental labs as it enabled them to improve the quality of dental restoration manufacturing and placement. Objet systems provide such labs with the ability to manufacture, rapidly, digital stone models using the Eden260V 3D Printing systems. 3D-printed dental models guarantee dentists high level of precision in the placement of dental restorations that is difficult to achieve using freehand traditional techniques.

The Objet Eden260V achieves a high return on investment for professional rapid manufactring solutions. Printing with the high accuracy of ultra-thin 16µ layers, all Eden systems produce models with exceptionally fine details and smooth surfaces. With the Eden 3D Printing Systems family, you can select the system that best suits your 3D rapid manufactring needs. The compact design and the clean process of Objet’s Eden systems make these machines ideal for any lab or office environment.


Eden260V 3D Printer

  • High resolution in all axes
  • Eliminates the stair effect common to complicated curved surfaces built in lower resolution
  • Produces ultra-fine detail usually only available with high-cost systems
  • Thin walls down to 0.6mm (0.024")
  • Horizontal layers of 16µ (0.0006")

Clean, Smooth Surface

  • Easy-to-remove, support material enables sophisticated geometries at any angle
  • Delivers smooth exterior and interior surfaces, including cavities, without the remnants characteristic of rigid support structures
  • Eliminates finishing and post-build processing during the 3D printing process

Ideal for an office environment

  • Small footprint
  • Safe, clean, office-friendly process
  • Uses environmentally-stable, fully cured materials
  • 3D printing resins supplied in sealed, ready-to-load cartridges, requiring no contact
  • Easy management and maintenance


About the Author

In 1999, Avi Cohen joined the Objet Geometries Ltd. after nearly seven years on the graduate business faculty at New Haven University. Since coming to Objet Geometries Ltd., he has served on the Global Customer Support Manager, brings with him seven years of experience in management of international customer support organizations. Prior to that, he served at different bio-medical companies, in various customer and product support high management positions, both in Israel and in the APAC.

Since 2005, Cohen has been involved in developing and setting up global applications solutions responsibilities at Objet Geometries Ltd., and in past years focusing on the growing medical and dental segments.

In his current position, Cohen is managing the worldwide dental and medical solutions at Objet. He has experience in the following industries: Medical CT and MRI, Dental scanning and software solutions, and 3D Printing, modeling and design – in both marketing and business development aspects. Cohen has recent specialization in bringing digital solutions into dental and medical arena.

Objet Geometries Ltd.

Billerica, MA