The precision and sophisticated technology that is required in modern dentistry mean that only the best quality, most suitable materials should be used to ensure optimal results. Plastics are fast becoming the go-to material for many dental tools and applications, due to their durability, inexpensive production costs and high levels of hygiene and cleanliness. Plastics’ versatility is also highly attractive, with multiple applications requiring varying levels of micro mouldings, bespoke designs and other techniques stemming from the injection moulding process.
As with any medical or healthcare sector, dentistry has high expectations for its dental instruments and processes, which can often be life-changing for affected patients. Plastics and polymers are used across a wide range of applications and rely on industry-leading, innovative injection moulding experts. Examples include packaging and pouches, surgical instruments, teaching equipment, dental hygienists’ cleaning kit, dental implants, plastic cups and vials.
Often, the dental tools manufacturing process starts with an in-depth consultation with a dental firm or supplier, who will provide exact precise specifications that are then used to create the bespoke dental plastics that will be used in dentist surgeries, hospitals and teaching facilities all around the world. The versatility of the plastic injection moulding process makes it ideal for this demanding, yet highly sophisticated medical sector.
Plastics in dentistry
The use of plastics and polymers in dentistry is nothing new. It originates back in 1930 when thermopolymerizable acrylic resins were first used, creating a huge milestone in dental technology. These initial materials came with a number of disadvantages, including increased porosity and high water retention, so were soon replaced by more advance polymers, such as polyamides (nylon), acetal resins, epoxy resins and polystyrene. These proved popular due to their non-allergenic, biocompatible properties and ability to be moulded into exactly the right shape, size and thickness required.
Today, such polymers are used in a wide range of applications, including dental implants and their abutments, full and partial dentures, bridges, occlusal splints, artificial teeth and orthodontic appliances, including braces. Dentistry has combined with the very best of microbiology, electronics and plastics technology to introduce innovative and highly effective ways to improve and build up dental procedures.
Suitable plastics used in injection moulding for the dental industry offer excellent resistance to occlusal wear and tear, beautiful, smooth aesthetic finishes for cosmetic satisfaction, high levels of flexibility, resistance to heat and chemicals and ease of modification for very precise measurements, shapes and sizes. They offer excellent biocompatibility to maximise the body’s ability to adapt to their introduction and avoid allergic reactions or painful after-effects.
Another huge area of dentistry that benefits from advancements in plastic injection moulding is cosmetic dentistry, which relies on top quality, attractive and durable materials to create patients’ perfect smiles at a lower cost. Shiny, sleek finishes and exact colour matches to existing teeth can make all the difference when it comes to a person’s satisfaction with the results of cosmetic dentistry.
Strength plays a key part, too, when it comes to crowns, dentures, implants and bridges. These applications will be subjected to regular use and pressure from eating, talking, teeth grinding and other routine ways the mouth and teeth are put into daily use. Finally, flexibility is key for dental applications that are designed to fit exactly and to promote changes in the mouth, such as braces and Invisalign that work by pulling teeth into their desired position using pressure applied over time.
Other common sights in dental surgery are increasingly manufactured using sophisticated plastic injection moulding techniques. Tools and equipment made in this way include dental mirrors, brush heads and fibres, water beakers, drill casings, product pots, lids and bottles, plugs, nozzles and tubing. Injection moulded plastics can be opaque or transparent, rigid or flexible, durable or disposable, depending on the individual requirement. Polymers can be combined and blended for exact results and compatibilities with various dental instruments and tools.
Dental instruments are often single-use, meaning that they must be hygienic and effective, yet easy to dispose of after use. Using plastics and polymers enable these pieces of kit to be lighter in weight and easier to recycle, allowing dentists to remain as eco-friendly as possible when handling waste and spent dental tools.