Nothing captures 3D printing’s indispensability as an intermediate process while also demonstrating its capacity to scale better than dental aligners and nightguards. 3D printing has made it possible to customize aligners according to each patient's unique dentition, resulting in improved comfort, reduced treatment times, and better overall outcomes. An industrial CT scanner fits seamlessly into this workflow, providing accuracy and detail that a surface scanner just can’t match.
We gave the process a try in our workshop with a patient recruited from a nearby desk. The first step was taking a physical impression by having our patient bite into a tray filled with alginate. This impression created a dentition mold that we could scan to produce a model of his teeth.
Instead of using a traditional surface scanner, we popped the impression tray into our Lumafield Neptune industrial CT scanner to generate an intricate 3D digital representation of the teeth that captured not only obvious external features, but also details that were obscured by overhangs on the mold.
We converted the scan to a mesh STL file and then inverted it to get an accurate model of our patient's teeth. If we were making aligners, we’d adjust them at this point in specialized dental software.
After that, we sent our inverted STL file to a stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer and printed a physical model of our patient's teeth.
Next, we used a vacuum former to heat a thin sheet of dental-grade thermoplastic material until it became pliable. We lowered the heated sheet over the 3D printed model, flipped the vacuum switch on, and applied suction to shape the plastic around its contours. Once the plastic cooled and hardened, it retained the shape of the model, creating a custom-fit nightguard.
We then carefully trimmed and polished our formed nightguard to remove excess material and achieve a comfortable fit. It’s now ready to wear during sleep to protect our patient's teeth from grinding or clenching.
Learn more about the workflow