The market for dentistry in general has been constantly expanding. Especially here in the United States, people have come to value their teeth and their appearance more and more. It is estimated that by 2018, the orthodontic supply market alone will be worth 1.1 Billion. That is just for supplies (braces, retainers, molds). With the introduction of 3d-printing to this industry, the precision of these pieces of hardware has increased significantly. The discomfort factor has also sharply decreased. The limiting factor in this industry is typically the number of patients that can be seen which is driven by discomfort levels, number of visits and disposable income. However, 3d-printing speeds this process up significantly and puts discomfort out of the equation. I would expect this market to continue to grow now more than ever. The advantages to 3d-printing orthodontics was explained in an earlier article of mine.
The dental market alone is worth an estimated 119 billion dollars. There are more specialty dental products than ever. Perhaps you have already seen the 3d-printed toothbrush that perfectly cleans your teeth in 6 seconds. Fixing cavities, getting crowns and replacing teeth has always been viewed as a painful, long and expensive process. Don’t get me wrong. It has improved significantly over the years, but it is far from perfect. With the ability to 3d-print metal and practically any plastic in existence, crowns and fills for cavities can actually be 3d-printed to exact dimensions without the need to drill into your teeth to fit the procedure. The procedure is actually tailored to you.
So what do all these 3d-printed innovations have in common? They all just require a simple scan of the inside of your mouth. This information is stored digitally and can be sent to a 3d printer to create practically any product you may need based on your needs. Whether it be the toothbrush, a cap for a cavity, or a model to fit a new retainer. The problem is that while the 3d-scanning technology is relatively universal, the printers needed to make these products are very specialized. We have not reached the point where one printer can create all these products. Yet.
The cost to put one of these printers at a dentist or orthodontist office is very expensive still. And guess who these costs would be pushed to? The end consumer aka you. I would recommend that rather than have a printer at every dentists office, have a scanner at every office instead. Printing can be done off site then shipped back to the office. One of these printing sites could cover many dental and orthodontic offices which would cheapen the cost of the printed products. Since the scans are universal, one scan would enable any product to be created at the discretion of the end consumer.