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New study investigates 3D-printing use in dental practice

According to a recent report, improved efficiency and reduced cost are the greatest advantages of 3D printing in dental practice. (Image: Sergey Ryzhov/Shutterstock)

CHICAGO, US: A recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) investigated the prevalence, applications and user experience of 3D printing in dentistry. It found that, although the use of 3D printing in dental practice is currently low, those who adopted it reported improved efficiency and reduced cost. The aim of the study is to inform current users about other users’ experiences and to advise non-users about the potential benefits of the technology.

The survey report considered the responses of 277 members of the ADA Clinical Evaluators Panel. It found that only 17% of the participating dentists currently use a 3D printer in their practice, of which 67% have been using it for less than two years.

“Although this survey found that 3D printer use in private practices is currently low, it is growing due to workflow efficiencies and expanded applications associated with continuing developments and progress with these technologies,” co-authors Dr Kevin Frazier, vice dean and professor of restorative sciences at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University in the US, and Dr Marta Revilla-León, director of research and digital dentistry at the Kois Center in the US, said in a press release. “Non-users should continue to monitor these trends for adding 3D printing in their own practices.”

The most common uses for a 3D printer were to complement or enhance other digital technologies, control workflows, improve efficiency, use existing digital skills or procedures, and reduce cost or manufacturing time.

Regarding usage, nearly half of the users said that they use a 3D printer for 25% of their cases per month, mainly for diagnostic models (62%), followed by splints and occlusal devices (50%) and then surgical guides (48%). The most common problems experienced with 3D printing involved software and printing failure.

Among the 83% respondents who do not use 3D printers, 44% cited using a laboratory, 39% high financial investment and 34% lack of perceived benefit as their reasons for not using 3D printing. Among non-users, 21% were considering investing in a 3D printer and 35% were considering undergoing training.

“3D printing was chosen for this survey because it was one of the top four topics on several ‘hot’ or ‘emerging’ trends in dentistry lists, and we wanted to know how our colleagues were responding to the advances in 3D-printing technology that have led to expanded applications for practice,” Drs Frazier and Revilla-León noted.

The report can be found here.

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