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This is the first article in a two-part series considering the relevance and clinical uses of digital technologies in relation to orthodontics. The aim is to take a closer look at a ‘point-of-care’ digital service and highlight the key areas in which digital workflows have been employed, along with areas of future development. The second article will document the application of digital workflows in joint orthodontic/orthognathic treatment and present two clinical cases which have undergone treatment by means of a digital workflow.
CPD/Clinical relevance: Digital technologies can enhance orthodontic clinical care.
The integration of digital technologies and three-dimensional (3D) printing in healthcare has risen drastically over the course of the past decade. Once reserved for industrial processes such as tooling design and fabrication, as well as visual and functional rapid prototyping methods, these technologies have since been developed and applied to several areas of dentistry, including orthodontics. While digital technologies might initially be more expensive, requiring relatively high levels of investment compared to more conventional methods, they offer distinct advantages. These include the ability to digitally replicate, modify and print human anatomical structures or appliances in 3D, with the potential to improve reproducibility, efficiency and the overall quality of orthodontic treatment.1,2,3
Current applications of computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) include a number of tasks specific to orthodontics.3,4 In their simplest form, these digital workflows can be divided into data acquisition (scanning) and data usage or outputs, including 3D printing. This article will describe the use of intra-oral scanning and 3D printing before turning to specific orthodontic applications of digital technology.
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