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What’s Ahead for Digital Dentures?

Dentures isolated on a white background.

For many centuries, men and women have had to deal with a few lost teeth or for some, even the total absence of their teeth. And unfortunately, humans are not like other animals that have unlimited number or teeth or continuously growing dentition. We only have our baby teeth and our adult or permanent teeth which we have for the majority of our lifetime.  The problem is that our teeth are constantly subjected to various environmental stresses

That’s why we’re all grateful for restorations like dentures. Throughout the years tooth replacement has evolved from the wood and metal framework that were used around 700BC to the porcelain, plastic, and acrylic dentures that we see today. Indeed, there is a long history of advancement in dentures, but one thing has remained unchanged – these prostheses, whatever material may be used for them, are made by hand. The laborious work required of setting the teeth by hand and preparing the prosthesis for fabrication is still what we see today.

When technological advancements have finally found their way to the field of dentistry, we have seen big leaps – for instance, 60% of crown and bridge work is now completed with the use of a digital workflow in advanced dental laboratories. CAD/CAM has allowed dental technicians and dentists to do so much more while using less manpower.

No less than 31% of adults aged 65 and above are edentulous and the number is continuously growing. At this rate, analog denture fabrication may not be able to meet the demands for dentures in the future.

This time-consuming approach to crafting dentures has now been challenged by the advent of CAD/CAM and 3D printing. Now that software development has allowed the establishment of precise placement of teeth in a virtual environment, the modern workflow reflects a huge step towards the future of denture making.

It may have taken digital dentures a while to enter the market but they are, indeed, here and a welcome reality.

The digital workflow addresses the issues surrounding the traditional denture process. Traditional fabrication of denture requires patients to visit the dentist around five times. Digital denture workflow cuts the number of patient visits to two or three.  It also claims a reduction in chair time and shortened time at the lab of up to 50%. So aside from the obvious convenience that a digital workflow offers the patients, it also allows for more cost-effective dentures.

At present, digital dentures still leave room for traditional procedures. For example, the dentist can go digital right after the initial impression. Alternatively, he or she can proceed with the traditional workflow and choose to add the digital aspect when designing and milling the final prosthesis from the software.

The technology that would allow us to facilitate a completely digital denture process is yet to be developed. But with the way things are progressing, we won’t have to wait for too long.

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