How an Orthodontist Uses a 3D Printer

Technology has been transforming orthodontics for some time now, providing modern orthodontists with notable advantages over orthodontists of the past. One of the biggest advantages today’s orthodontists have at their disposal is the use of a 3D printer. By making smart use of this exciting technology, orthodontists are making treatment better for patients everywhere.

What Is 3D Printing?

Even though 3D printing has been around for quite some time, it still remains somewhat of an enigma to many people. The process begins by creating a 3D digital model of what you want to be created. The 3D printer then interprets this data and layers on the material until the product is completed. It’s kind of like the opposite of carving out a sculpture or tool. Instead of shaping an object by carving out the excess material bit by bit, you’re layering the material to create something new.

As you can likely guess, 3D printing has a wide range of possible applications, and orthodontists have certainly taken notice. Over the years, orthodontists have found plenty of ways to integrate 3D printing into providing innovative orthodontic appliances to patients.


One of the most significant uses of 3D printing in orthodontics is the advent of Invisalign. This revolutionary system of clear, plastic aligners has transformed orthodontic treatment for good by allowing patients to straighten their teeth without having visible orthodontic appliances.

3D printing allows these aligners to be created quickly and efficiently while giving them a precise fit for patients. This 3D printing system works in tandem with the iTero scanner, a 3D scanning device that provides precise intraoral images of a patient’s teeth. Once the scan is taken, the Invisalign trays can be printed out and given to the patient. This process is also used to create clear plastic retainers.

Models Used to Fit Appliances

Even if a patient doesn’t get Invisalign, 3D printing can still be used in their treatment process. For instance, if a patient is getting traditional braces, a model of their jaw and teeth will need to be created to create their personalized set of braces. 3D printing is a very effective and convenient way to generate these models.

These models are also used to create retainers, such as the traditional Hawley retainer. Using the 3D model, the plastic piece that attaches to the roof of the mouth can be created fairly quickly and with a lot of precision.

Custom Braces

The convenience of 3D printing technology is also used in the process of creating custom braces. These braces are fitted onto clear plastic trays, similar to Invisalign aligners, before being applied to the patient’s teeth. 3D printing is used to create these clear trays, which increases the precision of how the braces fit.

As a result, custom braces provide superior results in less time, giving the patient an overall better experience.

When you visit Milnor Orthodontics for your free consultation, we’ll gather dental impressions with our iTero scanner, which we can use to let you know which treatment options are right for you. Contact us today to schedule your consultation!

At Milnor Orthodontics, our experts are here to help you achieve a priceless smile. Call our office at (970) 230-3187 or visit to learn more. We're located at 1103 S. Shields St. in Fort Collins, Colorado.