Tehran:  What if, instead of waiting days or weeks for a cast to be produced, your dentist could quickly scan your jaw and "print" your new teeth using a rapid prototyping machine known as a 3D printer?

Researchers in Iran explain how medical imaging coupled with computer-aided design could be used to create a perfect-fit blueprint for prosthetic dentistry, whether to replace diseased or broken teeth and jaw bone.

The blueprint can then be fed into a so-called 3D printer to build an exact replica using a biocompatible composite material.

Such technology has been used in medical prosthetics before but this is an early step into prosthetic dentistry using rapid prototyping, reports the International Journal of Rapid Manufacturing.

Mechanical engineer Hossein Kheirollahi of the Imam Hossein University and colleague Farid Abbaszadeh of the Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran, explain how current technology used to convert an MRI or CT scan into a prosthetic component requires milling technology, according to an Imam Hossein statement.

This carves out the appropriate solid shape from a block of polymer but has several disadvantages, uppermost being that it is very difficult to carve out a complex shape, such as a tooth.

Conversely, rapid prototyping uses a 3D image held in a computer to control a laser that then "cures" powdered or liquid polymer. Almost any solid, porous, or complicated shape can be produced by this 3D-printing technology.

The Iranian team has now demonstrated how rapid prototyping can be used to fabricate dental objects such as implants and crowns quickly and easily even where features such as overhangs, sharp corners and undercuts are required.

(Agencies)