Skip to main content

Military Health System

How 3D-Printed Teeth and Other New Tech are Transforming Dental Care

Image of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaden Murry had nearly all of his lower jaw removed because of a tumor. The procedure was the DOD’s first ever immediate jaw reconstruction surgery using 3D-printed teeth. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaden Murry had nearly all of his lower jaw removed because of a tumor. The procedure was the DOD’s first ever immediate jaw reconstruction surgery using 3D-printed teeth. (Photo: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob L. Greenberg, NMCSD)

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dentistry and the tools to improve the dental field have come a long way from the days of George Washington, when he endured painful metal dentures made with horse and cow teeth.

Thanks to technology, the evolution of dentistry is improving patient care. One key milestone for the Department of Defense came in November 2020 when doctors conducted the first jaw reconstruction surgery using 3D-printed teeth.

Some major advances in dentistry include advances in imaging technology, such as 3D imaging, computer aided design and 3D printing, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Daniel Hammer, a maxillofacial surgical oncologist and reconstructive surgeon at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD). Hammer took part in the first surgery implanting the 3D-printed teeth.

"We are able to obtain 3D imaging of the facial skeleton with increased accuracy and decreased radiation dose," Hammer said.

They can use 3D images to plan reconstruction of the patient's face with unprecedented accuracy, he added.

"These [digital] impressions are more accurate and do not require additional laboratory work," said Hammer. "If a physical model is needed, we're able to print the scan on our 3D printers."

By leveraging computer-aided design, he said, doctors can now print or mill the final teeth or surgical guides at NMCSD.

These types of advances in dental technologies have improved patient outcomes as well as treatment options and clinical scheduling, said Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Mike Andersen, a maxillofacial prosthodontist at NMCSD.

Doctors are now able to do far more in a single surgical procedure. "We're able to combine numerous surgical procedures that were once split up over years of treatment," he said.

As a bonus, the advances make patients more willing to get treatment when needed, Andersen said.

He admits he's still in awe of being able to immediately see the patient's teeth on the machine in real time.

"The ability to immediately transfer that data to our imaging software to discuss and plan cases with our team is unbelievably more accurate, consistent, and predictable than traditional methods," he added.

High-tech tools and technologies have allowed dentistry to advance further than ever before to improve patient care.
High-tech tools and technologies have allowed dentistry to advance further than ever before to improve patient care. (Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob L. Greenberg)

The imaging data can be used to create essential tools such as orthodontic retainers, night guards, milled or printed prototype teeth, or even final restorations, he said.

These technologies also help better explain procedures and treatment options to patients, said Hammer.

"With 3D planning and printing, I can better articulate to our patients what we plan to complete and achieve for each procedure," he said. "They're empowered to ask questions and have an easier time understanding the complexity of these procedures because they're holding models and seeing images of their own procedure completed in a virtual world."

The more the patient understands before the procedure, the better their post-operative experience is, he said.

The Psychological Impact

"The preservation or rehabilitation of a patient's [teeth condition] is critical to their overall health," said Hammer. "That includes their mental health."

He explained, for example, that when he discusses the removal of a jaw tumor with his patients, most of them are very concerned about the possible removal of their teeth.

Andersen added there's a "tremendous psychosocial component to dental and oral health."

"A significant proportion of patients with maxillofacial injuries suffer from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders," he said.

He explained that many patients struggle daily with essential life functions such as swallowing, speaking, and chewing, but also with self-esteem and body image."

"Whether our patients have cancer, trauma, or benign tumors, our goal is for patients to awaken from surgery with not only the pathology removed and a new craniofacial reconstruction, but to also have a full complement of implant-retained prosthetic teeth for immediate improvement of speech, swallowing, function, and overall quality of life."

You also may be interested in...

Lung Cancer Leading Cause of Cancer Death

Article
11/22/2022
 U.S Navy MRI technologist behind a computer screen with a magnetic resonance machine in the background.

With November being Lung Cancer Awareness Month, be aware of symptoms, causes, and steps to take if you think you need screening.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Colorectal Cancer Screening Age Decreases to 45

Article
11/22/2022
A patient sits in an office with while a health care provider talks to her.

Though the overall death rate from colorectal cancers have been on the decline in recent years, it remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Doctors Recommend Sunscreen for All Skin Complexions

Article
6/13/2022
The dangers of too much sunlight – from sunspots to skin cancer – are real risks for everyone regardless of skin complexion, doctors say.

The dangers of too much sunlight – from sunspots to skin cancer – are real risks for everyone regardless of skin complexion, doctors say.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Summer Safety

For Sexually Transmitted Infections, Young People are at Higher Risk

Article
6/13/2022
Protect yourself in the war against sexually transmitted infections. If you have questions about where to find free condoms, STI testing, or treatment, contact your health care provider or local installation clinic.

Every year, thousands of service members are diagnosed with at least one sexually transmitted infection. Topping the list of the most common are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and genital herpes, military health data shows.

Recommended Content:

Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health | Women's Health

Kids' Teeth Grinding Usually Stops Around Age 9 or 10 - But Not Always

Article
4/15/2022
A child receives dental treatment during the “Give Kids a Smile” day event March 9, 2019, held by the 375th Dental Squadron clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Children registered for the event were given the chance to receive cleanings, fillings, and more at no cost to their parents. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Isaiah Gonzalez, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)

Do you ever see or hear your child grinding his or her teeth or clenching his or her jaws during the day or at night while sleeping? That’s a potentially serious health problem. Teeth grinding in kids may require a night guard.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | TRICARE Dental Care

Military Dentists Provide Relief and Support in Central America

Article
3/8/2022
U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Lemieux (center), dental assistant with Army Forces Battalion, Joint Task Force-Bravo, and Col. Franklin Florence (right), general dentist with Army Forces Battalion, Joint Task Force-Bravo, prepare a patient for an extraction with assistance from a Honduran volunteer during a Global Health Engagement at Los Laureles, Santa Barbara department, Honduras, Feb. 15. JTF-Bravo, in conjunction with Honduran Ministry of Health representatives, conducted the mission to provide dental and other medical services with volunteer support from Honduran medical students, who served as interpreters.

Dental woes are common to everyone, everywhere. U.S. military medical and dental specialists conducted a Global Health Engagement with partners in Santa Barbara, Honduras, in February, where they provided dental and primary care services to local Hondurans.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

Teeth Grinding: You Won't Believe How Harmful it Really Is

Article
2/28/2022
U.S. Navy Hospitalman Justin Sobleskie (right), and U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Roberts, USS Carter Hall dental department head, do dental work on aboard the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) while at sea.

Grinding your teeth, called bruxism, can lead to migraines and neck pain or require surgery to replace the joint in your jaw.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

The Chief of the Army Dental Corps Talks Dental Health & Readiness

Article
2/22/2022
The Army’s top dentist talks about what service members should keep in mind about their dental health.

Here’s what the Army’s top dentist thinks service members should keep in mind about their dental health.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

A Deployed Dentist Recalls His 'One-Chair' Clinic in Afghanistan

Article
2/16/2022
Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez did a tour of duty as a dentist downrange in Afghanistan.

“The soldiers knew whether there was a dentist on base. Those who needed something found me.”

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Women’s Heart Attacks Symptoms Can Differ from Men’s: Know the Signs

Article
2/11/2022
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack can differ between women and men. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 quickly.

Doctors say women sometimes fail to recognize their unique warnings signs for heart problems.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Heart Health | Women's Health

Why Dental Health is Essential for Warfighters and Military Readiness

Article
2/4/2022
U.S. Air Force Major Rachael Parrish, 20th Dental Squadron general dentist, performs an oral exam on Airman 1st Class Amie Bickford, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions technician at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, March 13, 2017. Airmen assigned to the 20th DS are tasked with ensuring airmen and soldiers on base meet all dental class requirements for deployment.

Your mouth is a gateway to your body. Bad oral hygiene can lead to serious health consequences that may affect your military readiness.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dentally Unready: Gen. George Washington's Lifetime of Dental Misery

Article
2/3/2022
Visitors to the George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate and museum in Mount Vernon, Virginia, can see George Washington’s only remaining full denture among the collection. They include his own pulled and saved teeth, other human teeth, teeth from cows and horses that were filed to fit, and teeth carved from elephant ivory.

No, George Washington did not have wooden teeth. But he did struggle with dental problems for most of his life.

Recommended Content:

Our History | TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Ask the Doc: Overcoming Your Fear of the Dentist

Article
2/1/2022
Patient getting dental care

Seeing the dentist can be scary. Here are some tips for how to make your next visit easier.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Ask The Doc

Do You Have COVID-19? Influenza? Or is it RSV? Here’s What to Look For

Article
1/24/2022
Military personnel preparing a COVID-19 test sample for processing

Knowing the symptoms of COVID-19/RSV/Flu will help your medical treatment

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health

Flu Vaccination Rates are Running High Across the Military This Year

Article
12/8/2021
Image of a woman giving someone an injection on the arm.

Rates of flu vaccination among service members are significantly higher than in previous years.

Recommended Content:

Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Immunizations | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 24, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery