@Susan that could be. From what I've seen, the 3D scanning technique used is the same as the one used 3D printing, but the crown itself is milled. I did see here that 3D printing itself is used for models of teeth, particularly for othodontics:
In digital dentistry, dentists forgo physical impressions and use intra-oral scanners, which provide a full view of the anatomy of the mouth, jaws and teeth, and allow labs to build precise models that fit right on the first try. Most of the scanners are compatible with 3D printers, said Stratasys' Director of Global Dental, Avi Cohen. Even for simple record keeping, he said, scanners make sense. Orthodontists, for example, "keep the original (or 'before') impressions for each patient for several years — five to nine, depending on location. For orthodontic practices of any size, this can create a huge storage problem since all those physical models need a home," said Cohen.
"But with digital files, they are stored electronically and models can be 3D printed on demand if necessary." The next logical step, he added, would be popping the digital file into a 3D printer, and producing the right-sized object that the dentist can insert into the patient's mouth.
The advantage of Veroglaze, Stratasys said, is that it is not only a sturdy polymer material suitable for all tooth needs, but is colored with the key A2 teeth color shade — the ivory "white" shade made famous by generations of toothpaste and mouthwash ads. Veroglaze, said Cohen, is Stratasys' "first step towards 3D printing teeth color models with remarkable color matching of the A2 color shade."
@Susan I'm not sure what the actual difference in cost would be. As far as I know my insurance allows a set rate for the procedure, no matter which way the dentist obtains the crown. It probably costs him a bit less than sending out to the lab, but it also takes up more of his time. That's is why he said that for patients who want a whole set of teeth done, he would still have the lab do. Also the machine seems to have to form one crown at a time, so even at just 11 1/2 minutes a piece, it would still take quite a while to fill an entire mouth. And that time is on top of the time it takes for imaging, adjusting, and baking.
"I think this technology is still at the laboratory stage and a few years will be required to sort out all the technical and safety related issues to get the regualtory authority nod for use of this technology on patients"
You are right Prabhakar. It may take time to get commercialized and for end user usage.
@Susan the software and machines my dentist used were from a German company. the caps were actually milled, drilled down from a cube of ceramic type material. After the shape was attained, the dentist added on color and baked it in a small version of a kiln.
@prabhakar_deosthali yes, not every innovation makes it to our own dental offices. I asked mine about lasers in place of drills years ago, and we don't have that yet What he did adopt recently, though, is on-site production of crowns. He used to have to send out to a lab for that.
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