Here’s a Look at Some of the Latest Dental Lab Technology
Aside from receiving better care, human teeth haven’t changed much in the last 100 years. Dental technology, though, in a single century has gone from basic artistic tools to developing machinery and programs that might have come out of NASA. Dental laboratory technology is constantly changing, with innovators always testing new methods and programs—which makes the field exciting. Very few of these ever trickle down into regular dental labs, but the new technology is always interesting, even if a lot of it does go the way of the LaserDisc.
At AmeriTech, we prepare our Dental Lab Technicians to begin fabricating bridges and crowns as soon as they graduate. That means our students and staff have to stay up to date on the latest technology that every dental lab implements. This gives us the chance to learn about every facet of this constantly advancing field. Though few of these will tremendously affect your future dental lab, this week we’ve compiled a some of the most recent advancements that some speciality DLTs have created.
Air Force CAD/CAM Technology
All military medical procedures have to be as efficient as possible. Squadrons depend on all of their members, so the sooner soldiers, pilots, and crewmen are back in action, the better. According to the Defense Department, the Air Force has recently updated its dental clinic so that even teeth restorations can be ready in hours—not weeks—which is necessary for crew members preparing for deployment.
A handful of R&D dental labs first used computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) in the 1980s, creating computer programs to design the size of a crown or bridge and then robotically create it. The process was considered expensive and cumbersome then, and the finished product never looked quite as good or naturally colored as a hand-crafted crown, which tends to happen with manufactured goods. All the same, CAD/CAM dental work is becoming more affordable now for specialty labs that have to mass-produce bridges and crowns quickly, labs like the Air Force dental clinic.
The Air Force has used CAD/CAM technology for years, but always for equipment and machinery, never teeth—until now. The new technology just made sense for its rapid production needs. Fabricating crowns with the right attention to color and detail can take 4-6 weeks, which used to prevent some personnel from deploying on time. Now that the dental clinic has implemented CAD/CAM, it can produce multiple crowns in a matter of hours. These products might not pass the quality inspections of most dental labs, but their process has reduced the number of delayed missions.
3D Dental Product Distribution
3D printing has been the buzz of technology blogs for years, since every week someone discovers a new and helpful way to use it. Printing cutlery and machine parts was one thing, but teeth? With sizes and hues unique to each person? Like CAD/CAM technology and anything mass-generated, a printed bridge will likely never compare to one made by the artisan hands of a dental lab technician, but one company still wants to give it a go.
3D Systems has worked to bring 3D printing into more and more fields, and they finally made a move toward dental lab technology. The tech company signed a distribution deal with one of the largest providers of dental lab products, meaning 3D printers will be available to certain dental labs. There’s no evidence this business deal will result in widespread adoption of 3D dental printing. The machines are still too expensive for most labs, and few patients would choose these printed teeth over the traditional ceramics. That said, they may eventually be used as a cost-effective alternative, which could allay the rising demand for dental lab technology. Time, of course, will tell.
The Latest Version of DentMill
CAD/CAM technology is a pretty competitive market, especially among programs specifically targeting the small cluster of dental labs that use it. DentMill, if you don’t already know or gather from its name, offers computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software, and it’s one of the industry leaders. But like everything in dental lab technology, it’s always advancing its products.
The latest version of Dentmill was unveiled last month during Lab Day Chicago, offering new features that will make milling dental prosthetics easier. This is the kind of dental lab advancement that people either find fascinating or dull as rocks. (The main upgrade is that the program offers “a new mechanism for identifying and creating machining features from imported CAD data,” according to Dentistry IQ.) Since few DLTs ever use Dentmill or similar products, what that essentially means is that the program can learn how to read and implement more kinds of data. For the enclave of the industry who use it, this is exciting, saving dental techs from having to manually input every command. For the rest of us, we just enjoy reading about these innovations for specialty labs.
Of course, much more has happened—and is happening—in the dental lab technology field, even as we write this. If these developments interest you, contact us today about becoming a certified dental lab technician. Just request more information here. We’d love to hear from you!