If you didn't know by now, 3-D printing is the answer to absolutely everything ever. So given the paralyzing prices of orthodontia, it makes sense that Amos Dudley, a 24-year-old digital design student at New Jersey Institute of Technology, 3-D printed his own Invisalign-type devices to straighten his teeth.
"I had an amazing realization last year — I wasn't smiling, and it was because I was unhappy with my teeth," Dudley wrote on his blog in March. "By avoiding smiling, I was dampening my own potential for spontaneous happiness!"
He took matters into his own hands. "It probably only worked in large part because of luck and good initial conditions," Dudley told NPR. "But if there's an idea you have, you just have to try it out." Even if that idea is DIY dentistry.
He started with a bag of internet-ordered putty and "pretty much just read the instructions on the back of the bag" to make a mold of his teeth, he told NPR. Dudley translated the physical impression to the computer using a laser scanner, and then used calculations to project how his teeth would need to move. Finally, he 3-D printed those models and, by "melting thin sheets of plastic" over them, made roughly 12 aligners, according to NPR.
"I basically would wear them between one and three weeks each," Dudley said. "I sort of knew to stop wearing a retainer when they no longer felt like they were exerting pressure on my teeth."
NPR spoke with an orthodontics professor, who cautioned against homemade orthodontics for the non-technically gifted among us, saying "decay or bone disease" in Dudley's teeth could have derailed the endeavor.
As it stands, though, the college student seems to have saved big bucks on a better smile, and now he has a job at a 3-D printing company. He wins.