There’s no doubt that 3-D printing is cool, but its applications have yet to find their way into most of our daily lives.
Sure, there are some amazing potential applications in the works. Some biotechnology firms talk of printing complex vascular systems including organs. On the front lines of medical 3-D printing are scientists in China. Xu Mingen developed the specialized 3-D printer to use living cells instead of the standard plastic. The printer, called the Regenovo, can print a small living kidney or liver sample in under an hour.
Live tissue printing will obviously have amazing applications in surgical care. A British woman had a 3-D printed titanium jawbone implanted by the Biomedical Research Institute at Hasselt University in Belgium. Imagine when implants such as this can be created on a 3-D printer with living material!
Then you have the potential in the food industry. NASA has prototyped several 3-D printers that produce edibles. In one of the neater cases, they printed a pizza using dough, sauce and cheese which cooked as it was extruded. Other labs have created similar concoctions and at least one young company is using 3-D printing to create a variety of meat products. I wonder how long until the classic vending machine fare we see in hotels, universities and airports are updated to print you a hot meal as you wait?
Still, while really innovative, none of these examples affect us on a daily basis. When will 3-D printed products start becoming something we all deal with every day? Possibly sooner than we think.
Welcome the new age of tooth hygiene with the invention of the Blizzident. The Blizzident is a 3-D printed toothbrush, custom fitted to your mouth. The company’s website claims you can brush your teeth in just six seconds and get better results than with a traditional brush.
How will it work so fast? Once you get a look at one it’s fairly clear. The unit is basically a soft, bristle covered mold that fits in your mouth, form fitting around all of your teeth. To brush, using the cleaning process the company calls the Bass technique, you just apply toothpaste to your teeth using your tongue, insert the Blizzident, bite down and grind your teeth against it. The company assert s that the process is so effective that even flossing becomes less important. Oh, and it cleans your tongue at the same time.
The plastic used in the mold and the bristles already has FDA approval but we’ll see what dental associations have to say after the product has gone through some clinical trials. I can’t see dental hygiene groups having an issue with the product on principle. As they say, your dental hygiene is only as good as your equipment and your discipline combined. But at six seconds total, it’s hard to claim you didn’t have time to brush your teeth at any point during the day.
The Blizzident is not cheap. $300 for the first purchase, plus the cost of the scan you’ll need to get from your dentist. According to the website, you can order a replacement for $160 if you aren’t including a brand new scan. Or you can have your existing mold refurbished with new bristles for under $100. Currently they are recommending a new set of bristles or a whole new set every 12 months.
So yes, this new 3-D printed tooth cleanser is expensive. But then it is also the first item of its type on the market. Plus, if it truly does lead to better tooth hygiene and speed, then will the accumulated time savings and potential for fewer dental repair procedures save us some money in the long run as well?
And really, when was the last time we saw truly major innovation in a toothbrush?
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.