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3D Printing In Orthodontic Care

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3D printing allows dentists build replicas of teeth by scanning, rather than the various expensive tools that are normally used. (GE Reports, 2017) 3D printing could drastically reduce the cost of orthodontic care as we know it, and make these services accessible to people of all incomes.

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Many families struggle to meet the cost of orthodontic care in Ireland today, as a result have to forego the service which has now become an integral and expected part of society, sometimes at the expense of personal happiness and wellbeing. The financial side of things was a major deterrent for Amos Dudley, who decided to take matters into his own hands and straighten his own teeth.

Rather than paying for the traditional metal brace, Dudley 3D printed his own plastic ‘retainers.’ (Retainers are plastic casings usually used in orthodontic aftercare to keep previously aligned teeth from shifting position.) Dudley himself owned a 3D printer, but it lacked the precision and accuracy he required. However, studying at New Jersey Institute of technology meant he had access to machines with the sufficient technology. (Dudley, 2016) Amos Dudley succeeded in his efforts to straighten his teeth and you can read more about his journey here: http://amosdudley.com/weblog/Ortho.

If an undergraduate can achieve this low-cost success himself, we can hope that this cutting-edge technology is made available on a larger, scale in the near-future. 3D printing can give us a new kind of orthodontic care, but will it render our orthodontics’ careers obsolete? pictures?Not only can 3D printing be used to adjust your teeth, they can also replace existing organs, cartilage and skin. When an organs has failed, or is damaged beyond repair, sometimes the only option is to replace it with another.

Presently, some of the problems faced when receiving donated organs include the delicate recovery period after operation and organ rejection, the disheartening process where the body fails to accept the organ in question. When an kidney is received, 17% of people actually lose their transplants within 3 years.

3D printing could improve this situation and also markedly decrease the now prolonged waiting times spent on organ transplant lists. It may seem unrealistic to hope for a solution that could help save multiple lives, but success stories are being seen already. For example, at Belfast city hospital earlier this year, 3D printing was used to create a replica of a kidney. Therefore an operation could be practised to remove a possibly cancerous cyst on it, and the kidney could be donated. (Haria, 2018)

When using 3D printing an organ, one of the most obvious questions that presents itself is what material should be used. If the immune system rejects another bodies’ antigens, what chance does a completely foreign man-made substance have? The answer is a technique called “bioprinting,” which, as () states: When bioprinting an organ, a patient’s own cells are used, rather than using synthetic materials http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=3dab300a-c97f-4eac-9747-f090dec13669%40sessionmgr103

If 3D printing is to make death by failed organs a thing of the past, insurance companies may have to re-think the criteria for health insurance pay-outs. There is an ethical dilemma too – is the whole thing a bit unnatural? Would 3D printing be interfering with the innate order of life and death? Will people be sceptical of having organs ‘developed’ in a machine?Erik Gatenholm, who started his first biotech company aged only 18, sums up accurately the potential for 3D printing in an interview with Tim Lewis (The Irish Times) “You die because your organs break. That’s why you die. If we can start replacing them, maybe we can extend the human lifespan? That’s really neat!” (Lewis, 2017)

3D printing gives computer-aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacture (CAM) a whole new meaning. Not only that, but it could fundamentally change the way health care is provided to all. In the future, we can only hope that 3D printing to save lives becomes normalised so that costs can go down and everyone can reap the benefits. In 2012 Barack Obama said at The State of Union Address, that “3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”

03 December 2019

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