Instead of gagging on the clay-like material orthodontists often use to make impressions of their teeth, patients at Smile Frederick Orthodontics bite down on a camera that scans and photographs the inside of their mouths.
Orthodontist Jim Lee uploads those images to the Internet-based cloud storage site Dropbox, where John Bifareti, owner of Gaithersburg-based Bayridge Lab, downloads them. Bifareti uses a 3-D printer to rapidly produce models of a patient’s teeth, and then tailors expanders, retainers and other orthodontic appliances to their specifications.
This digital method, which Lee has been using for the past year, is faster and more accurate than the traditional one, he said.
Before 3-D printers, orthodontists had to mix a material called alginate, which patients had to keep in their mouth for about 3 minutes until it hardened. A patient might have to come in a few times to make these alginate impressions, which staff would physically package and ship to Bayridge Lab. And sometimes alginate models became distorted in the trip from the office to the lab, Lee said. … (Read more)