Four U.S. Dental Schools At The Frontier of 3D Printing Education


Four U.S. Dental Schools At The Frontier of 3D Printing Education

Category: Blog,Expert’s Corner, Jenny Chen, M.D.

This blog was originally published on the official 3DHEALS website.

As we wrapped up our 2023 Dental 3D Printing event recently, it is becoming apparent that the dental industry is not only adapting 3D printing as a new tool for existing operations but also pushing the integration with the other digital dental workflow to increase productivity and value propositions to patients. It is no longer a question of IF, but when and how. Two speakers, Dr. Ioanna Gidarakou and Dr. Gustavo Mendonca, are both active practitioners of 3D technologies and educators. While it is encouraging to see some of our next-gen dental professionals learning from the best in dental 3D printing, 3D printing education is still not formalized in most teaching institutions. Adapting 3D printing at scale still has many immediate challenges. Post-pandemic dental practices face many challenges in itself. While teledentistry is taking center stage, about 50% of dentists apparently won’t buy new technologies anytime soon. Moreover, the largest 3D printing player 3D Systems announced an almost 46.2% decrease in revenue from orthodontic devices (compared to 2022). You can see our Twitter threat about this here. This article aims to highlight four top U.S. dental schools that are leading the way by incorporating dedicated 3D printing into their curriculum. (If you find inaccuracies in this article, please send the request to modify at:

The Why

By integrating 3D printing into dental education, students gain hands-on experience in designing and fabricating dental prosthetics, implants, orthodontic appliances, and surgical guides with increased precision and efficiency. This newly added focus applies not just to subspecialty dentistry but also to general dentistry, which perhaps is more impactful to the future of dentistry. For a more comprehensive review of the current state of dental 3D printing, please check out our regularly updated Guide and subscribe to our newsletter.

As dental professionals graduate with a solid foundation in 3D printing technology, they become catalysts for innovation in the field. With the ability to leverage 3D printing techniques, future dentists can push the boundaries of what is possible, advancing dental research, developing novel treatment approaches, and contributing to the evolution of dentistry as a whole. Perhaps more importantly, 3D printing and other emerging technologies like robotics, and AR/VR can collectively solve the specialist access issue. General dentists can now offer high-quality dental aligner care and implant surgeries after less extensive training with the help of these new technologies.

In other words, dental schools that prioritize 3D printing education recognize the transformative potential this technology holds for the dental profession. By imparting essential skills and knowledge in 3D printing, these schools empower students to embrace the future of dentistry and deliver exceptional care to their patients. With its ability to improve learning outcomes, personalize treatments, and foster innovation, 3D printing education in dental schools is undoubtedly crucial in shaping the next generation of dental professionals.

The List

We picked the following four dental schools to highlight because of several reasons:

1. We have had direct interactions with their faculty members

2. They have incorporated 3D printing directly into their curriculum. Typically, these include:

  • Prosthodontics: 3D printing can be used to create dental prostheses such as crowns, bridges, and dentures. Dental students will learn about digital dentistry workflows and utilize 3D printers to fabricate these prostheses in a more efficient and precise manner.
  • Implant Dentistry: 3D printing technology allows for the creation of surgical guides, which aid in the precise placement of dental implants. Students will learn how to design and fabricate these guides using computer-aided design (CAD) software and 3D printers.
  • Orthodontics: In orthodontics, 3D printing can be used to create models of patients’ teeth, which are essential for treatment planning and the fabrication of clear aligners. Dental students will learn how to scan patient models, design treatment plans digitally, and produce 3D-printed models.
  • Anatomical Models: 3D printing enables the creation of anatomical models that mimic real patient cases, allowing students to practice various dental procedures before treating actual patients. These models will provide a hands-on learning experience and help students develop their skills.

3. They have a well-embedded and supportive formalized 3D printing ecosystem on campus.

University of Michigan School of Dentistry:

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry offers a comprehensive digital dentistry curriculum that includes education in 3D printing technologies. Students have access to a digital dentistry laboratory and receive training in CAD/CAM technologies, intraoral scanning, milling, and 3D printing for dental applications. In other words, the school will prepare future dentists with a holistic set of knowledge on these 3D toolsets. You can find out more here.

The dental school also has resources to many other 3D printing resources, departments, and talents within its network. Other relevant departments focusing on 3D printing include: Biomedical engineering, Material science, and engineering, Mechanical engineering

Prof. Gustavo Mendonca who has spoken at 3DHEALS platform a number of times was a teaching faculty at the University of Michigan, however, he is now at the University of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, continuing his passion for dental 3D printing education. We have conducted an influencer interview with the professor very recently.

Prof. Marco C. Bottino and his very own Botinno Lab in Regenerative Dentistry explores the interface between regenerative technologies and translational research in the areas of oral, dental, and craniofacial tissue applications. One of many technologies they focus on includes the utility of 3D printing and Bioprinting to engineer patient-specific structures to promote tissue periodontal regeneration. Key research outputs include the use of matrix/amorphous magnesium phosphate bioinks for craniomaxillofacial bone tissue, bioactive amorphous magnesium phosphate-polyetheretherketone composite filaments for dental/orthopedic implants, and 3D melt-electrowriting (MEW) of Poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) to differentiate human-derived periodontal ligament stem cells and promote macrophage polarization.

The School of Dentistry offers a ‘Pathways Program’ for students to foster growth in their respective fields. One of many electives included in the program involves ‘Digital Planning and 3D printing in Dentistry’. In 2019, the Department of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry hosted the 46th Annual Moyers Symposium and the 44th Annual International Conference on Craniofacial Research. The proceedings titled ‘Embracing Novel Technologies in Dentistry and Orthodontics’ revolves around three key concepts: Big Data, Digital workflow, and 3D printing.

Dr. Denis Fasbinder and Dr. Gisele Neiva developed the Computerized Dentistry training course which offers students didactic, laboratory, and comprehensive patient care experiences focusing on the utility of emerging digital technologies such as CAD/CAM technology to enhance patient oral health. This program is currently being offered under the Graduate Restorative Dentistry Program (MS)

The University of Southern California Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry

This dental school is one of the first dental schools in the United States to incorporate 3D printing into its curriculum. USC as a school also provides ample funding to promote 3D printing education both inside and outside of the dental school. For example, it is also at the forefront of research focusing on complementary technologies like machine learning/AI , microfluidics, and tissue engineering.

In 2018, Dr. Tae Kim, an expert in restorative dentistry who serves as the Chair of Removable Prosthodontics in the Division of Restorative Sciences helped Ostrow become the first school to adapt 3D printing to its Dental curriculum on mass scale. Additionally, the school offers an MS degree focusing on Biomaterials and Digital Dentistry.

Believe it or not, the now highly popular dental 3D printer and material company SprintRay was founded by two USC students.

Like other major universities, the school offers a variety of 3D printing services, classes, and networking opportunities among 3D printing professionals and enthusiasts. USC’s 3D4E student club @3d4e_usc offers their members the chance to learn 3D scanning and 3D printing as well as the opportunity to showcase their projects to the public at an end of the year event. The university also offers an online course, ‘ Additive Manufacturing: Materials for 3D Printing’ hosted by Joan Horvath, an expert in 3D printing and the cofounder of Nonscriptum LLC, a consulting and training firm for teaching users how to use ‘maker tech’.

Previously a number of faculties from USC dental school and engineering school have spoken at 3DHEALS events, including Dr. David Kelliny at 3DHEALS 2020.

Harvard School of Dental Medicine:

In the powerhouse of both engineering and healthcare, Harvard School of Dental Medicine can fully take advantage of its easy access to new technologies, funding, and talents. Some of the well-known startups in dental 3D printing including Formlabs (off MIT)and Lightforce are homegrown companies that are making waves in the dental space.

3D printing and related 3D technologies are very visible components of the school’s various curriculums. Within minutes, students can also access 3D printers at the Fabrication Lab at the Harvard School of Design.

As part of the ACDE (Association for Continuing Dental Education) Webinar Series and ADA CERP service jointly hosted by Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Chia-Yu (Jennifer) Chen an Instructor in Oral Medicine, Infection, and Immunity ran two education courses towards the utility of digital workflows and 3D printing in Dentistry:

  1. Advances and Challenges of Digital Dentistry for Dental Implant Surgeries
  2. 3D Printing Technology in Periodontics & Implant Dentistry

Dr. German Galluci, department chair of the Department of Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials Sciences at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, has mentored projects related to applied digital dental technology and 3D printing including comparison of digital versus conventional dental implant impressions and CAD/CAM for prosthetic implant dentistry.

The Harvard GSD fabrication lab also offers a very informative wiki page consisting of advanced manufacturing tutorials ranging from subtractive manufacturing to additive manufacturing (3D printing)

Harvard’s Enterprise Architecture offers a comprehensive guide detailing the deployment of any 3D printing workflows/devices into advanced manufacturing spaces.

Harvard’s SEAS (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) includes a 3D printing research core that primarily assists researchers in advanced manufacturing technologies. They provide design consultations, 3D modeling, material selection, and production.

Harvard’s innovation labs offers an introductory workshop on how to design and develop 3D models for 3D printing.

Harvard’s Graduate School of Design summer course offering a Clay 3D printing workshop — “Introduction to Clay 3D printing workshop” by Nicolas Touron.

University of California, Los Angeles:

3D printing and digital dentistry workflow as a whole have long been incorporated into the dental school curriculum. The school is also at the forefront of research and collaborates with other departments on campus, offering education not only to current dental students but also to continued educational courses.

One notable individual at the school is Dr. Ben Wu, who is a leading clinician, scientist, and entrepreneur in dental 3D printing, material science, and biotechnology. He is also the current director and chairman at the UCLA dental school and School of Engineering, as well as co-founder of a handful of biotech and dentistry-related companies.

UCLA School of Dentistry clinics with 3D printing capabilities include Orthodontic Clinic, Maxillofacial Prosthetics Clinic.

The UCLA’s Samueli Makerspace offers free of charge 3D printing, virtual reality systems, electronics fabrication tools and more for engineering students. The 3D Printing at UCLA club (3D4E) run by STEM students offers their members a weekly workshop to learn and explore how to design models suitable for 3D printing. The club also focuses their time towards design and development projects ranging from arts and crafts to functional devices such as a mechanical keyboard, lightweight plane, prosthetics, and point-of-care devices.

Join 3DHEALS and Discover 3D Bioprinting, Dental, and Healthcare 3D Printing Ecosystem.

Related Articles:

Additive Manufacturing in Dentistry (On Demand 2023)

Dental 3D Printing: Pioneers and Rulebreakers (On Demand 2022)

Dental 3D Printing: Latest in Digital Dentistry (On Demand 2021)

Dental 3D Printing — The Ultimate Guide

Interview with Rick Ferguson: Teaching Dental 3D Printing



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