Advances in 3D printing take clear aligners into the future

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How far has 3D printing brought clear aligners?

Improved, smarter materials and advances in teledentistry are changing the landscape of orthodontic treatment. (Image: Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock)

LONG BEACH, Calif., US: In the dynamic field of orthodontics, the advent of clear aligners has marked a significant leap forward, marrying aesthetics with functionality to offer patients an appealing alternative to fixed appliances. A new comprehensive review delves into the burgeoning realm of 3D-printing technology and its use in the fabrication of aligners. For dental professionals striving to stay abreast of cutting-edge research and developments, the peer-reviewed synopsis provides an insightful overview, encapsulating the evolution, methodologies and future prospects of aligner technology.

In addition to covering the historical technological development leading to today’s aligners and the associated CAD/CAM technology, the review offers a brief refresher course on 3D-printing technology. Among the various 3D-printing methods, such as stereolithography, digital light processing (DLP) and fused deposition modelling—which offer unparalleled benefits in terms of customisation, speed and cost-effectiveness—DLP stands out for its suitability in aligner production owing to its ability to achieve high accuracy and optimal material properties for dental applications.

However, the clinical efficacy of aligners is contingent upon a myriad of factors, encompassing mechanical properties, such as elasticity, force delivery and resilience, as well as the precision of fit and accuracy. The review underscores the paramount importance of these factors in achieving desired orthodontic outcomes, highlighting the need for continuous material innovation and process optimisation.

Challenges in aligner therapy, including the management of complex tooth movements and the maintenance of material properties in the oral environment, are addressed with a forward-looking perspective. The review advocates for a multidisciplinary approach, leveraging advancements in materials science, digital dentistry and biomechanical understanding to surmount these hurdles.

Aligner technology is poised to harness the potential of emerging materials and 3D-printing techniques, promising further refinements in treatment efficiency, predictability and patient satisfaction. Innovations such as smart materials capable of dynamic force application and the integration of teledentistry for remote monitoring are envisioned to redefine orthodontic treatment approaches.

For dental professionals, the review offers a concise yet comprehensive understanding of current trends, challenges and future prospects, equipping them with the knowledge to navigate the evolving landscape of orthodontic treatment. As the field continues to advance, embracing these innovations will be instrumental in delivering superior patient care and achieving optimal treatment outcomes.

The study, titled “Advancements in clear aligner fabrication: A comprehensive review of direct-3D printing technologies”, was published online on 29 January 2024 in Polymers.

Editorial note:

This article was published in 3D printing—international magazine of dental printing technology vol. 4, issue 1/2024.

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