Imagine breaking a crown, rushing to the dentist and getting a new one printed out and cemented in place right there and then. Furturistic, right?
Actually the technology already exists. But only 10 percent of dentists are using it, mainly because the equipment has been so expensive -- until now, according to Parag Kachalia, a professor at the University of the Pacific Dental School in San Francisco.
Fifteen years ago, when the digital equipment first became available, the price tag was over $115,000. While dentists make a healthy income (the average is around $200,000 a year) that was too much for most of them to bite off at once.
But at the annual meeting of the American Dental Association in San Francisco on Thursday, 3M is selling for the first time a $11,995 scanner that makes three-dimensional images of your mouth. Here's a video of the scanner.
The 3M scanner doesn't get you all the way to a new tooth. The image has to be sent to a lab which has equipment to carve the tooth out of a block.