Interview: Dr. Ivan Chicchon, 3D Printing in Dental Implantation


Dr. Ivan Chicchon is a surgically trained prosthodontist practicing in Northern California. He uses 3D printing to fabricate custom devices in his dental practice including surgical guides and temporary full arch prosthetics. He has used 3D printing to design novel dental implants and to aid in the rehabilitation of patients suffering from large facial defects. Dr. Chicchon is a graduate of the Arthur A Dugoni School of Dentistry and completed his residency training at the University of Michigan. He teaches his techniques through his CE course series called Implant Ninja. Dr. Chicchon will be a speaker and workshop instructor for #3DEHALS2017.

Q: What is your vision on the intersection of 3D Printing and healthcare?

A: In the not-so-distant future, bioprinting will be huge. Our bodies will be repaired via additive manufacturing, both directly onto our tissues as well as more indirectly via 3D printed organs used to replace our own. Taken a step further, our newly regenerated 3D printed body parts do not necessarily have to replicate our own tissue — rather they might be “improved” in numerous ways. This is the most interesting application of 3D printing in healthcare for me.

Q: What do you specialize in? What is your passion?

A: I am a Prosthodontist. Basically I deal with people who have no teeth or have a mouth full of completely destroyed teeth and I fix them up with a brand new set of functional teeth. This involves pulling teeth, cutting and reshaping the jawbone, adding bone through grafts, placing implants, and building new teeth. This is my bread and butter — and gives me satisfaction of doing a significant service to my patients.

However, my passion is creating new tools and techniques for clinicians to use for curing patients. I’ve developed a few new techniques for cancer removal surgery as well as for rehabilitating patients with facial prosthetics. I love the balance of working clinically 2–3 days per week, and finding cool new applications for 3D printing in healthcare on the rest of the days.

Q: What inspired you to do what you do?

A: I am an artist. I love to create and rebuild. In my profession, I do this on a daily basis. It just seemed like a natural thing to pursue.

Q: What is the biggest potential impact you see 3D printing having on the healthcare industry?

A: The 3D printing of organs and scaffolds that facilitate the regeneration of natural tissues.

Q: What challenges do you see arising in implementing 3D printing in healthcare sector in the next 5 years?

A: Clinical trials and FDA approval. I think this will be a huge bottleneck for these advancements. And, that’s probably a good thing.

Q: What is the best business lesson you have learned?

A: Keep in mind that I’m not a millionaire — so my advice won’t make you rich (laugh). But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned was to NOT wait for others to validate your idea. If you believe in yourself and your idea, don’t let people discourage you or tell you why it wont work. This only shows you their limitations, not yours. The second lesson that has bailed me out is…cover your butt (laugh). Things can get messed up and business relationships can crumble — make sure you protected yourself from the beginning instead of scrambling to cut losses at the end.

Q: What is the biggest business risk you have taken?

A: I quit my day job in order to pursue my passion of innovating. I am much happier, if a little poorer. Again, I’m not a millionaire, but I love what I do. I would say that the biggest risk someone can take is to spend their life doing something that they don’t enjoy.

Q: What crucial skill should people aiming to work in this industry acquire?

A: The most important skill for me has been to always be hustling. I guess that’s an essential skill of life in general. Always seek improvement, seek how to move forward, and don’t dwell on mistakes.

Q: How will accessibility of the technology affect the cost of procedures?

A: Accessibility always drives down cost. That’s literally Econ 101….You know, except in dentistry. Dental work always seems to get more expensive, however, unfortunately. Sorry about that. 

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