3D Printing For Better and More Affordable Dentures
A researcher at the University of Leeds has been awarded a grant of £247,552 (approximately $290,000) for research on the use of 3D printing for dentures. Dr Andrew Keeling has been leading the study since 2018 and aims to discover whether 3D printing technology is a viable alternative to traditional methods of denture construction in dentistry. The funding has come from Dunhill Medical, a charitable organization which supports better care for elderly people. Their slogan, ‘Remarkable Research for Healthy Ageing’ shows their mission of anti-ageism and support for scientific research like this one.
Traditional methods for denture production are expensive, time consuming and labor intensive. First an impression of the mouth is made, then a plaster model to model the shape; once they are satisfied, acrylic is injected into the model and cured. This whole process is not quick; patients can be left without teeth for months which has obvious effects on self-esteem and ability to eat. Of the UK population, 6% need complete dentures: a new method of denture production using 3D printing could prove very useful. A pilot study was performed by Dr Keeling, in which patients were given dentures made using both methods, both of which were rated equally well by the users. The demand is there, the finished product has been considered acceptable by the wearer: the only thing left is larger-scale trials.
Indeed, there have been previous studies indicating that 3D printing could prove useful for dentistry. For example, a recent study from researchers in Japan suggested a difference in quality of 3D printed crowns versus those used for traditional methods. What really matters about Dr Keeling’s research is its importance for the most vulnerable of the UK population; other research has benefited primarily those who can afford it.
As he explains: “Dentures aren’t the most glamorous aspect of dentistry, but they’re essential for millions of people in the UK – many of them older, less wealthy and often struggling with poorly fitting dentures or none at all.” Indeed, this study could have big implications for elderly healthcare, using technology to improve accessibility for those who need it most. You can find out more HERE.
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*Cover photo credit: Dunhill Medical