I was dreading the trip to the dentist last week since I needed to get a crown.  For those of you who have been spared this misery, it usually involves several trays of Play Dough-like substance being squished between your teeth to make molds for the porcelain tooth cap and digging into your gum lines with a metal form to be sure the crown fits correctly.  It is as unpleasant as it sounds.

I was delighted to learn that high-tech has made it to dentistry and the forms are now a thing of the past.  Until my visit, 3-D had been hypothetical to me, but I was a first-hand beneficiary of its marvels.  Instead of forms and goo, the technician scanned my teeth and the machine instantaneously made a 3-D picture of my upper jaw.  After the work on the tooth getting a crown, she scanned the lower jawline and then the dentist was able to show me the pictures of how they fit together.

The 3-D image is then sent to the lab where they make a perfect crown for me.  The printer even color-codes the gap to ensure there is enough room for the crown to fit or it alerts the dentist where and how much more to drill down.  I was fascinated at how he could pull the top and bottom teeth apart; rotate it to see from any angle and even have views looking down (like through the skull) or up (from below the chin).  If my dentist had wanted to invest another $100K, he could have “printed” my crown right there and skipped the temporary crown stage.  

It’s not often that I go to the dentist and come back fascinated, but it happened this time.  I am glad that he invested in this new technology and that I could experience it as a patient and a curious observer.  If you have the chance to see 3-D in action, take it.  When sci-fi meets the ordinary, extraordinary things can happen.

— beth triplett

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