Driving Materials Development
Meeting the demand for more efficient manufacturing and expanded material options
The indirect materials market in 2014 again was dominated by new product launches that were laser-focused on the automated production of patient-specific restorative solutions. Many targeted the rapid shift of patient demand to biocompatible all-ceramic fixed prosthodontics (which remains the backbone of the dental and dental laboratory industries), while others concentrated on the implant market—from materials for milling custom abutments to bar-supported removable prosthetics. Emerging as a new segment in this category were products designed to support the automated manufacture of milled and 3D-printed full-arch removable dentures. Driving development of all these material innovations is the demand for more efficient, streamlined manufacturing processes and expanded material options. In all segments of material development, the industry is heading toward simplicity in handling and production efficiencies, while looking to maintain positive esthetic aspects in the case outcome.
This year was quieter than last in terms of groundbreaking material introductions, but that may change in 2015 with the approaching International Dental Show. In 2014, the multi-layered ceramics concept reappeared in the form of zirconia milling discs and a lithium disilicate ingot for press technology. The gradient-shaded materials eliminate the need for layering after milling or pressing, saving considerable production time and labor cost, and resulting in a highly esthetic restoration. Milling blocks for creating millable highly esthetic long-term temporaries, and high-strength fiber/resin material or PEEK ceramic for producing non-metal based implant bars, also found their way to the market this year, along with the continued push for ultra-translucent zirconia and pre-shaded zirconia blocks.
It is hard to say when the materials market will break the stranglehold of zirconia and the lithium oxides, but don’t think that great materials research and development minds aren’t working on it.