There’s nothing quite so daunting as a trip to the dentist.
The suspense spawns weeks in advance, builds in the seems-like-forever recess in the waiting room, and as the dentist dives into your mouth, mouth mirror in-hand, comes to a horrible climax as it is revealed work does indeed need doing.
Yet, the same has been apparently true of the entire industry, at least it would explain why so many dental manufacturers have turned to additive manufacturing technologies increasingly so in recent years. There are the obvious pros: the time reductions, cost reductions, freedom of design, that have been hammered home ad nauseam, but in a recent chat with the Managing Director of Byrnes Dental Lab, it appears there’s also a remedy for the stress that is synonymous with this practice. Well for the manufacturers, at least.
That was evident to Ashley Byrne after 24 hours of installing a Carbon M2 DLS system this summer. Another day passing, the sheer efficiency of the machine meant a second purchase was made out of necessity.
“Suddenly, all the models were exactly the same, they were 100% reproducible, the cleaning was quick, it was easy, it wasn’t messy,” Byrne told TCT. “We could quadruple our volume with no additional stress. In fact, it reduced the pressure on the team.”
That team is 31-strong, and in the three years prior had tried with machines from 3D Systems and Formlabs. When the first Carbon system arrived, the company envisaged a period of transition, which would see the workload shared between various printers and outlets.
“We were going to do a little bit on a Carbon, and then a few on other printers, and sub-contract [too],” Byrne explained, “but the Carbon was so good we realised we wanted to do everything on the Carbon, but there’s only so many parts you can print in a day and we realised within the first three months we were going to run out of capacity.”
Hence, a second Carbon machine was ordered. The company is anticipating daily production of up to 200 parts and has also launched a lab-to-lab service. Byrnes is the only dental lab in Europe to own a Carbon machine – never mind two – and understanding that the average size of a lab in their sector is much slighter than itself, has established a sub-contract service so smaller practices can benefit too.
In doing so, the company is now on the other side of the fence. Its first dealings with 3D printing were through services of this ilk overseas, but growing frustrated with the time-consuming process, moved to bring the technology in-house. Before then, it was all silicone impressions, gypsum stone, plaster and wax, and exclusively so.
Now, it’s not only quicker to produce parts, but replace them as well. If a patient had lost an anti-snoring device, for example, it would take around six hours to manufacture one from scratch, and the patient would be charged full price. Now, Byrnes already has the patient’s data, so the replacement can be printed in half the time at cost.
“Everything is reproducible when it’s digital,” Byrne says. “It’s better for the patient, it’s better for the dentist, and it’s better for us.”
In those cases, and only those cases – well and some educational courses too – are the same parts printed twice. The combination of intraoral scanning and 3D printing is enabling mass customisation and means the grim process of having silicone impressions shoved in your mouth to ascertain the shape of your teeth is looking more likely a thing of the past.
At the time of writing, Byrnes has just produced its 500th print with the Carbon systems. They include applications like bite registration parts, special trays, and surgical guides, and as Carbon continues to update its hardware, this Oxfordshire dental lab is expecting a significant increase in their production capacity and a continued reduction in stress. It’s good timing too.
“We’re trying to change the face of dental technology, and bring the industry in line with modern manufacturing, rather than being stuck in the dark ages.”