The fact that clear aligner fabrication process are not 3D printed shocks a lot of people. But 3D printing is a part of the process of creating clear aligners. The four general phases in the production of transparent orthodontic aligners are shown in the flowchart below.
These four fundamental stages are used in some variation to create all clear aligners. However, there are several technologies and procedures that may be applied at each stage, which will impact the final aligner’s quality and accuracy. We’ll delve a bit further into each stage in this post.
The patient is an essential component of the aligner-making process. The patient should finally determine whether clear aligners are the most effective course of therapy for them. Some of the low-cost at-home treatment alternatives need the patient to accurately take an imprint of their own teeth, which is not advised. Priorities and preferences of the patient should be balanced with basic orthodontic concepts in the treatment plan.
Clear Aligner Fabrication Step 1: Digital image acquisition
The input data on which the entire process is predicated is the impression. The outcomes will be impaired if the impression is inaccurate, and the patient will probably feel uncomfortable throughout the procedure.
The two approaches to taking impressions that are most frequently employed are:
- An actual physical imprint made with dental putty
- A digital scan performed using an intraoral (in the mouth) scanner
The digital scan is the favored technique in the era of digital dentistry. For the patient, it is a lot more comfortable experience. Although not all scanners are made equal, it is accurate. With the push of a button, digital scan files may be sent to a lab or a colleague for inspection as opposed to physical impressions that need to be packaged and sent.
Clear Aligner Fabrication Step 2: Digital treatment planning
The design process is a significant point of variance in the quality of clear aligners. Orthodontists are specialists with considerable, specialized training in tooth mobility. While general dentists may be authorized to provide clear aligner therapy by clear aligner manufacturers, their level of real experience in this field might vary greatly. Even general dentists with much extra training in this area fall short of an orthodontist’s level of expertise. Due to this, we advise against using treatment techniques when an orthodontist is not in charge of the treatment plan.
There are three critical contributors to a successful treatment design:
- The patient: It is the patient’s duty to convey their priorities and expectations in detail. Different patients have different therapeutic objectives. Some people will spend any amount of money, effort, and agony to achieve the perfect set of teeth. Others are more concerned with some combination of speed, convenience, comfort, and/or cost and just want a certain problem solved.
- An orthodontist: An orthodontist is a specialist in the biology and anatomical elements of tooth movement, but they frequently lack knowledge of the computer systems used to set up the therapy. The lab technician takes care of that. The treating physician must provide the lab technician directions that both represent the patient’s priorities and adhere to solid orthodontic principles.
- The lab technician: The lab technician follows the prescribing doctor’s directions to carry out the design of the therapy inside the software environment. Only realistic tooth motions and timings may be entered into the design thanks to software parameters.
Clear Aligner Fabrication Step 3: Model 3D printing
Many individuals are unaware that this step occurs in the process. The actual clear aligners are not 3D printed. Instead, at each stage of the therapy, a replica of the teeth is 3D printed. This is where a large portion of the cost of producing clear aligners is incurred. These models are expensive to print because of the expensive machinery, resin, and labor needed. The precision of the 3D printers and the caliber of the resins employed will influence the quality of the aligners, as they do with every other phase in the process.
Clear Aligner Fabrication Step 4: Fabrication
The aligners can be made after the models have been printed. To create the shape of the teeth, a thin sheet of thermoplastic material is put to the mold after being heated to the temperature for molding. The aligners are cut, and the edges are rubbed smooth after cooling and hardening. These procedures can be carried out manually or by industrial robots that are automated.
The thermoplastic material is important in the fabrication process. Although there are many more possibilities on the market, Erkodur-al is one of the most popular thermoplastic material brands in Germany that are using in our production. The finest thermoplastic materials offer a perfect harmony between long-lasting force and wearer comfort, clarity, and BPA-free construction. Generally, softer materials that offer less continuous movement force result in better comfort. Harder and thicker materials, which provide the user with less comfort, can provide greater continuous movement force.
Making clear aligners is now easier and more precise than ever because to technological improvements. Although all production procedures follow the same fundamental phases, the various methods used at each stage will significantly affect the final product’s quality. We advise clients against only selecting the most affordable choice.
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