No one wants to get braces on their teeth. At least, I don’t think so – there may be someone out there who truly enjoys having metal wires and brackets glued to their teeth, but I don’t know anyone. Braces are painful, especially when they’re put on and when they’re tightened. They’re obtrusive, especially if you want to eat certain foods like apples or corn. And they’re embarrassing, especially if you’re a child or adolescent. I speak from experience. There’s another option though: aligners.

Aligners are made from clear plastic that slips over and molds to your teeth, gently straightening them. They’re more comfortable than braces, they’re much less visible, and they’re easier to fabricate than braces traditionally have been. When I got braces and then a retainer, I had to bite down on a tray full of horrible glop to make an impression, which was then hardened and used as a model for my dental gear. Now, all dentists have to do is take a 3D scan of the patient’s mouth in order to create custom aligners.

Aligners themselves haven’t been 3D printed yet; manufacturers are still working on a safe and effective 3D printing material for long-term dental use. But 3D printing is frequently used to produce molds with which the final aligners are formed. One company using this technique is Alignwise Smile Technologies, a Delhi, India-based company that produces clear aligners using advanced technology, as founder Sanjay Pathak fills us in.

Alignwise makes aligners that are nearly invisible, according to the company, and painless to wear. The product line, which is called 32 Watts, is designed by top CAD/CAM designers for fine detail and excellent comfort, as well as effectiveness. The team has a stringent quality control protocol to make sure that the best possible product gets to the customer.

Alignwise uses high-grade materials and operates under strict protocols, so customers can be assured that they’re getting a high-quality final product. The 3D scanning and 3D printing process ensures that patients are getting a perfect fit and a piece of dental equipment that will gently guide their teeth into place, without the discomfort of traditional braces. More and more orthodontists are turning to 3D printing for the manufacturing of dental aligners, so companies like Alignwise are seeing a lot of business. Aligners are one more example of how 3D technology is transforming the dental industry, making treatments more effective and patients more comfortable.

Alignwise has been conducting research with universities and has initiated a clinical case study that is showing good progress, according to the company. Although it’s based in India, Alignwise thinks globally and plans to reach other markets eventually. It’s still a brand new company and is in the progress of reaching out to dental and orthodontic offices to make its product available to as many people as possible.

Medical 3D printing is very frequently in the headlines, as it should be, and specifically dental 3D printing is rising to greater prominence. 3D printing is making a difference in many lives through its dental and orthodontic applications, and aligners are one way in which the technology is making a huge day to day difference. There are many wonderful applications of 3D printing, and in my opinion, the elimination of braces is right up there.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below. 

[Images: Alignwise]


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