The Best and Worst Ideas for Using 3D Printing in Dentistry

3D Printing in processAdvances in 3D printing technology have made doing things much faster and affordable. It has many uses, from printing a mini-me doll to a working gun. It is popular today in dentistry, particularly in orthodontics, a branch of dentistry that focuses on straightening teeth.

Back in the day, that meant braces, either made of metal or plastic. Today, you have other options, and that is clear plastic aligners. That is where 3D printing orthodontic technology really makes an impact.

Best idea: dentist-supervised

Orthodontists today are fast becoming fans of 3D printing technology. It is useful for making clear plastic aligners. These are becoming popular with older patients. However, the first companies to offer it charged upwards of $1,700 for a set of aligners and a few weeks to deliver it.

This can be anywhere from nine to 25 aligners, depending on the case. Today, labs offer 3D printing of FDA-approved aligners at much lower prices, some as low as $50 per patient, and deliver a lot faster. This means savings for the orthodontist, which trickles down to the patient.

It is a win-win situation all around.

Worst idea: DIY

Clear plastic aligners are an option to traditional braces. However, they will not work for all cases. Your teeth connect to ligaments and bone, surrounded by gum tissue. Orthodontists study a long time to understand how they all work together.

Clear aligners can move teeth, but only in simple cases. It will not work with cases like cross-bites or overbites. You might also have gum problems that can lead to tooth loss. If you try to print your own aligners without a dentist to supervise your treatment, you could permanently ruin your teeth and jaw.


It is easy enough to get clear aligners quickly and cheaply with 3D printing orthodontics technology available in dental labs. However, it is not a good idea to DIY your orthodontic treatment unless you know what you are doing.

Otherwise, do it under dentist supervision. This will ensure you get the treatment you need to get the smile you want.