Like a lot of folks, Amos Dudley had braces when he was a kid, but he never wore his retainer. Over time, the alignment of his teeth slipped to the point that by the time Dudley was a 20-something college student, he was embarrassed to smile.
But Dudley was not just any college student. He was a design student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. This meant that he had access to the school's state-of-the-art 3-D printing tools — and the know-how to put them to good use. It also meant that as a poor college student, he was broke enough to give a DIY option a try.
Fortunately, Dudley did not take this project lightly. He did an impressive amount of research, which he outlines in a blog post entitled, "Orthoprint, or How I Open-Sourced My Face." Using a 3-D printed tray and some alginate powder, Dudley created a mold of his teeth to figure out what was going on.
Dudley was researching name-brand orthodontic aligners when he realized that he might just be able to try this himself. (Photo: Amos Dudley)
He researched the different ways that aligners could be used to move teeth and even the recommended distance a tooth could travel in a given period of time. Then he used the 3-D printer at his school to create a series of 12 models that could essentially move his teeth from where they were to where he wanted them to be. Using a vacuum form machine, he created plastic aligners over each model from special dental-grade plastic that he bought on eBay.
"These have to sit in the mouth without breaking down or releasing toxic chemicals, so the quality of the plastic is important," Dudley writes on his blog.
Now all that remained was for Dudley to actually wear the aligners — and that he did. For 16 weeks, he has worn them night and day, taking them out only to eat. And the pictures show that they worked like a charm:
Amos Dudley's smile before (left) and after 16 weeks with his DIY aligners (right). (Photo: Amos Dudley)
Dudley is quick to point out that while the DIY solution worked for him, it's probably not for everyone. After all, he just needed some minor adjustments to return his teeth to a position they had obtained via years of orthodontic work.
He has no plans to go into business selling 3-D printer plastic aligners. "I'm a designer, not a manufacturer or an orthodontist," he writes.
What's most important to Dudley is that he is smiling again. And that should be considered a success in any book.