Living with Technology: Instant dental crowns -- Hit 'print,' then chew
Published 12:08 pm, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I have a crown. Therefore, I must be a king.
I was told I needed a crown.
I had heard how, when you need a crown, the dentist numbs you up, grinds the bad tooth down to a small stump, uses a mold to make an impression of stump and surrounding teeth, and then puts on a temporary crown while the mold goes off to a lab for fabrication of the permanent crown.
You go back a couple of weeks later to have the temporary crown removed and permanent one cemented into place.
Now, it can be done in a single visit through the use of computers and 3D printing technology.
I went in and sat in Dr. Geni's chair. After I received Novocain, the tooth was ground down to where it needed to be.
A mold was taken, just in case the 3D printing didn't work. Luckily, the mold wasn't needed.
Dr. Geni used a small scanner inside my mouth and took a series of photographs of the ground-down tooth. The photographs went directly into a computer that generated a visual model.
When the model of my ground-down tooth was established, Dr. Geni was able to decide what material would be needed to replace the part that had just been removed. Computers love to do this stuff.
When the model was what she wanted, Dr. Geni pressed the "print" button on the computer.
In her office laboratory, a 3D printer started to print the crown. It took about 12 minutes to produce it.
A quick note about 3D printers. There are two primary types of 3D printers: additive and subtractive.
Subtractive printers start with a block of material and remove all the parts that they don't want -- typically with drills. These are sometimes called "milling machines." My crown was created with a subtractive printer from a company called Planmeca E4D Technologies.
Once the crown had been created, it was tested on my tooth and a few minor adjustments had to be made to get it to fit properly and comfortably.
The long and short of it is that I went in for a crown at 8 a.m., and by 11:30 a.m., I was at a lunch appointment with a colleague.
This is just one of the growing examples of where 3D printing technology is going to have a huge impact on our daily lives.
By the way, even though I'm now a king, I still have to take out the trash.
Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org