A temporary crown printed by Star3D.
A dental crown is one of the most common dental procedures to help restore or repair teeth, yet still remains a cumbersome process. One company is trying to speed up appointment times through innovative 3D printed dental crowns.
When getting a dental crown done, patients visit the dentist at least twice. The first visit involves preparing the tooth and getting an impression for the construction of the permanent crown. The impression is then sent to a third-party dental laboratory, where the crown will be made.
This process can take at least two to three weeks, which can be inconvenient for the patient. The multiple appointments also occupy dentists’ time, which could be spent on treating more patients instead.
It is not surprising then, that the dental industry sees 3D-printed dental crowns as a viable solution. It would allow dentists to print the crown in their clinic instead of waiting for the laboratory, and patients can be fitted with their new crown in a single appointment.
However, there are challenges. Although 3D printing technology is mature, there is still difficulty in generating a material that would meet healthcare regulatory standards. The material also has to be durable enough to withstand wear and tear, while maintaining biocompatibility.
Recognising the need in the industry, Star3D founder Vincent Yuen wanted to be the first to supply a solution for 3D printed dental crowns.
Materials science – the missing piece of the puzzle
The solution involved two components – the first was 3D printing technology, which Vincent was well versed in.
The second was developing the right material to print the crowns with. This was a crucial piece of the puzzle.
The crown material needs to match up to actual tooth enamel strength and have high biocompatibility, as it is meant to last for several years. It also needs to meet regulatory requirements such as those from the Singapore Health Sciences Authority, Conformité Européenne (CE), the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and China’s National Medical Products (NMPA) standards. According to Vincent, it has been a challenge in the market to develop such a material that checks all the boxes for a permanent dental crown.
Partnering for tech access and expertise
Vincent knew he needed to work with materials science experts to get the material right.
“A*STAR was the obvious first place we thought of,” said Vincent.
A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering contributed technical expertise and experience to the project, producing a specially formulated resin that mimics tooth enamel, with excellent strength, rigidity and biocompatibility.
It was a great experience working with A*STAR. They were able to reliably deliver the research findings, and their R&D and expertise helped us accelerate our product development. We were also able to leverage A*STAR’s partners for other business collaborations.
– Vincent Yuen, Founder, Star3D
Star3D has licensed this technology from A*STAR, accelerating their R&D phase and fast-tracking the commercialisation of the material.
Delivering health outcomes through digital dentistry
Using Star3D’s desk-side 3D printer and the permanent crown material developed by A*STAR’s IMRE, dentists can now print a dental crown in just 15 minutes. They can also directly reproduce the patient’s actual tooth colour, with no additional colouration required. This solution helps dentists and patients save a remarkable amount of time compared to the weeks the process would have taken previously.
Star3D currently has more than 20 customers in Singapore using its 3D printed dental crown solution, as well as international customers in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia. Moving forward, the company plans to continue developing new materials and printing technologies to expand its chair-side 3D printing capabilities.
“We will continue to work together with A*STAR to develop new and unique dental materials, as well as other dental products. The collaboration with A*STAR has worked really well and we hope that it can continue for a long time,” says Vincent.