Dental Treatment Evolving with Digital Technology (Part 3)

The second part: Can Digital Help Handwork? -The Near Future of 3D Dental Printers

Medical devices, Clinical Doctor, Japan, Dentistry

Social Issues Challenged by 3D Dental Printers

In the first part of this article, we described the background of the development of digital denture production. In the second part, we continued the interview with Mr. Hiroshi Shiro of the Digital Solution Department of Kulzer Japan, Inc.

There are new points in denture production with 3D printers compared to conventional methods. One of them is the shorter treatment periods. Generally, dentures are produced by dental technicians taking time and effort in a dental laboratory using a plaster cast made from a mold of the mouth taken at the dentist's office. After the impression is taken, several visits are required for patients to check the distance and position of the upper and lower jaws, the relation with the temporomandibular joint, and the occlusion and test-fit the artificial teeth until completion.

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Source: Kulzer Japan Co., Ltd

Kamo: How would you expect to change treatment with the production of dentures using a 3D printer?

Mr. SHIRO: The period required to complete a denture will be shortened because the time needed to harden the plaster is eliminated, and the process is faster with the use of machines instead of physical mold taking. The optical impression, which does not need any materials in the mouth, may contribute to home care and dentistry for the disabled, where conventional mold taking is difficult.

Kamo: I understand that there are difficulties in introducing a technology different from what we have seen in the past. What are some of the challenges?

Mr. SHIRO: There is a trend to introduce new technology among dental technicians who run dental laboratories, and we would like to make efforts to enhance awareness, operation manuals, and training sessions for dentists and dental technicians. As a group of Mitsui Chemicals, we aim to be a company that can develop, market and provides customers with Machine x Material x Man (human resources) of their choice. We also feel that insurance coverage is the key to the spread of our products.

Kamo: How would you describe the current market share of the 3D printer business?

Mr. Shiro: It is difficult to make a general statement about 3D printers because the price of a 3D printer varies greatly depending on the production method, but we have the third-largest share of 3D printers notified as medical devices in Japan, with 12.8% of the market. 3D printers do not work well unless all solutions, such as STL data settings, printer parameters, and ink development, are linked together. We differentiate ourselves in this field by working as the Mitsui Chemicals Group.

Kamo: What about overseas businesses?

Mr. Shiro: Since our headquarter is located in Germany, our business is rather mainstream overseas, and we have a worldwide sales network. Furthermore, our strength lies in our activities as a member of the Mitsui Chemicals Group.

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