While experts estimate that one-third of all patients would benefit from splints and occlusal guards for therapeutic and preventive reasons, these appliances are often underprescribed due to high costs, misfit, and the tedious workflow to produce them.
With completely digital workflows and 3D printing, dental laboratories and practices can now manufacture splints and occlusal guards in-house at low cost to provide better treatments and clinical outcomes.
Watch a webinar with Formlabs dental product manager Sam Wainwright to walk through the full digital production workflow and learn more about the potential for saving significant time and costs by creating dental appliances in-house.
Missed Clinical Outcomes
For decades, occlusal guards, splints, and occlusal splints have been prescribed by clinicians and sold over the counter with little change to how they have been manufactured. Traditionally, dental laboratories make occlusal splints by forming acrylic by hand over articulated models, vacuum forming techniques, or a combination of both.
While experts estimate that one-third of all patients would benefit from occlusal splints, with the most common uses including preventing chips, cracks, and wear of teeth. According to Gordon J. Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD, one night of bruxism is equal to 100 days of normal use of teeth.
While it is clear that prescribing occlusal guards and splints would prevent serious issues, most patients aren’t receiving the necessary clinical care. Costs represent a barrier for patients that doctors find difficult to justify—many dentists choose not to prescribe or even recommend the use of occlusal guards. When offered, patients are also often unwilling to invest hundreds of dollars, despite the benefits to their future oral health.
Manufacture Splints Easily With a Digital Workflow
Recently, the dental industry has begun to more widely adopt 3D intraoral scanners and 3D printing technology, opening an opportunity to produce appliances with a completely digital workflow with noteworthy advantages over their analog counterparts. Thanks to this shift in technology, dental laboratories and practices can now directly 3D print biocompatible occlusal splints for long-term use.
Designing splints with a digital workflow is easy, and manufacturing integrates seamlessly with the Formlabs Form 2 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer. Since the occlusal guard or splint is a provisional appliance, it can be completely done by an assistant.
The Digital Workflow, Step by Step
- Scan: Collect patient anatomy digitally using an intraoral scanner, or scan a physical model or impression using a desktop scanner.
- Design: Import the scan data into CAD software and design the treatment.
- Print: Import the designed CAD file into PreForm print preparation software for print setup and easily send it to a Form 2 3D printer.
- Prepare: Wash, dry, and post-cure printed parts using Form Wash and Form Cure.
- Polish & Finish: Remove support structures, lightly grind the splint to smooth any remaining imperfections, and polish it to shine.
- Complete: The finished splint is ready for delivery to the dentist for fitment chairside.
Low-Cost and Fast Return on Investment
Ultimately, digital workflows for splints and occlusal guards can only gain widespread adoption once they make business sense.
3D printing a splint on the Form 2 takes less than 50 minutes for rush jobs, or a full build platform can be loaded with seven splints and printed in under two hours, for a cost per part of around $4-6. Most labs and practices report breaking even on their investment within a year or even months.
See the Full Digital Workflow
Watch a webinar with Formlabs dental product manager Sam Wainwright to learn what to look for in 3D printers and see the full digital production workflow step by step.