According to many sources, the first stereolithography apparatus (what we know as 3D printing) was invented in 1983 and patented in 1986. As we all know, Invisalign started using 3D printing for aligners in the US in 1999. Since that time, 3D printers have become much more affordable, and software for in-house printing has become very accessible.

Some would argue that Align’s decision to stop accepting scans from anything but iTero was a turning point in progression of in-office clear aligner therapy. They took a “hobbyist” world of 3D printing and turned it into a viable alternative to companies producing aligners.

Some practices have embraced the technology and proudly proclaim themselves “100% in-office aligners” with zero being outsourced to aligner companies. Other offices are yet to even own a 3D printer or do more than a handful of aligner cases per year.

There’s obviously no quantifiable right or wrong in this discussion, merely what you’re comfortable with. Are you comfortable paying large bills to the aligner companies or are you OK with managing more systems and more personnel?

Only you can answer that question.

There’s no disputing that 3D printing and in-office aligner production are here to stay. One can certainly “dip their toe in the water” and use 3D printing alongside alginate or use aligners printed in-house to finish traditional bracket cases. No matter where you are on the continuum, you can move more or less into the in-office aligner space.

Many have said that the “holy grail” will be when we can direct 3D print actual aligners without having to go through the lab process of models and suck-downs and the tedious trimming and polishing process. Until then, how do you see current technology being used in your practice? Keep in mind that no matter how much or how little you are currently integrating 3D printing, you should develop a technology plan for future .

It’s certainly an interesting and quick-evolving topic and I’d love your feedback.

Wishing you all the best!!!

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GLENN KRIEGER IS AN ORTHODONTIST WITH 20 YEARS OF RESTORATIVE AND COSMETIC DENTISTRY EXPERIENCE BEFORE HE RETURNED TO ORTHODONTIC RESIDENCY. DR. KRIEGER LEARNED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WELL-DESIGNED PRACTICE POLICIES AND SYSTEMS DURING A YEAR AT THE SCHUSTER CENTER FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA, AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF GENERAL ACCOUNTING PRACTICES AND INDUSTRIAL PSYCHOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL’S “DENTIST AS CEO” PROGRAM. HE IS THE HOST OF “THE ORTHOPRENEURS PODCAST”, MANAGES THE ORTHOPRENEURS FACEBOOK GROUP AND RUNS THE ANNUAL ORTHOPRENEURS SUMMIT.

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