Dentist or Designer?

Being born with perfect teeth is an outright rarity. Crooked teeth can be very frustrating, and having the issue fixed by a dentist can be very expensive. That's why 24-year-old college student Amos Dudley decided to fix his pearly whites on his own...using 3D printed retainers.

Dudley, who is a digital design student about to graduate at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has a passion for 3D printing. To straighten out his teeth, he turned to this technology.

With just his ideas about 3D printing his own aligners (and a couple of orthodontics texts) he got to work.

Amos Dudley's 3D Printed Retainers. Credit: Jon Kalish for NPR

Fixing His Teeth, All By Himself

Dudley started off by taking impressions of his teeth with a conventional putty-like material, resulting to a plaster model. Using a laser scanner, he turned the plaster model into a digital replica. With the help of 3D software and math, he was able to create models for fixing his teeth, which he took to the 3D printers at the college and printed a dozen of his personal retainers.

He would wear an aligner between one and three weeks each, and would switch to the next when one no longer felt like it was exerting pressure on his teeth anymore.

Dudley's personal 3D printed retainer shocked and impressed orthodontist Dr. Richard Bloomstein, who stated that "maybe" the retainers may have worked as well as a dentist might have done it.

The student did not realize that he had stumbled upon a marketable idea, given that traditional orthodontic care usually thousands of dollarsMany took note of Dudley's work, and he has received several business offers, but he declined them, having no interest in the matter...except for a 3D printer company that wants to hire him.

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