The global manufacturing industry is witnessing a change towards digital era where the companies have moved over conventional manufacturing processes to adopt newer digital manufacturing techniques.

Dental laboratories, which had been using conventional techniques, now started  adopting these digital techniques like 3D scanning and 3D printing. Embracing Digital Dentistry has allowed dental professionals to work more efficiently. The development of biomedical materials and machineries for 3d printing, has enabled dentists to serve their patients much quicker than before. As the models in dentistry are patient specific, the concept of mass production does not apply here, hence the turn around time for each case in crucial which is reduced considerably by digital approach. 

The standard turnaround time for dental crown or bridge production is usually about 2-3 weeks. The dentists are able to obtain these within to days using digital dentistry.

Digital Dentistry Workflow can be explained as below

1. Scan

This process involves creation of digital data of patients’ dental anatomy. A dental impression is a negative imprint of hard (teeth) and soft tissues in the mouth from which a positive reproduction (cast or model) can be formed. These models are then scanned using desktop 3d scanners which creates digital data of the patient’s denture.

L to R : Dental Impression, Model made from the impression, 3D Scanner for scanning the models, Scanned model

Recently, the use of intra oral scanners has enabled capturing the digital data of patient directly by the dentist in the clinic.

Intra Oral Scanner (image credit: Dentsply Sirona)

2. Design

The scanned data is then imported into dental CAD software where required treatments can be planned and corresponding designs can be made.

For example, if the patient requires a new crown, it has to be designed in the software based on the scanned data.


If the dental surgeon needs surgical guides for the surgery, it can be designed using the CAD software.

Similarly, if other components like bridges, splints, etc can be designed in the software.

3. 3D Print

All the above designed models will be manufactured using 3D Printers using materials for corresponding application.

Formlabs 3D Printer

Crowns, Bridges are printed with castable resin (wax) material which can be casted into metal in the lost wax casting in the next stage. (Lost-wax casting process is a method of metal casting in which a molten metal is poured into a mold that has been created by means of a wax model)

Then the metal cast is coated with porcelain layer which gives the required color and finish of teeth.

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L to R : Bridge after 3d printing in resin material, after casting into metal, after coating with porcelain material

Other applications like surgical guides, temporary crowns, etc can be printed with the biocompatible materials which can be used directly on the patient.


Advantages of digital dentistry:

  • Efficiency

Usually, the conventional turn around time for producing dental crown or bridge is around 2-3 weeks. With the development of digital dentistry the dentists are able  to get these within 2 to 3 days.

  • Accuracy 

Using machines and scanners makes it possible to print more accurate models than  handmade models, resulting in perfect fit and eliminating the scope of rejection.

  • Better planning

As the time for each digital process can be estimated, it enables the lab technician to calculate and plan the production more effectively.

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