Interview with Dr. Andrew C. Johnson: 3D Printing Prosthodontics

Dr. Andrew C. Johnson completed his general dental and prosthodontic training at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and now practices in Northwest Arkansas. Along with his specialist certificate, Dr. Johnson earned a post-doctoral master’s degree in dental science, researching CAD/CAM restorative techniques and emerging digital dental materials. As a board-certified prosthodontist and digital denture technician, his expertise centers around complex dental implant and prosthetic reconstruction, start to finish—from three-dimensional imaging, virtual treatment planning, and computer-guided and robotic surgery to digital prosthesis design, production workflow, and long-term complication management. However, now that he has devoted equal time to utilizing, teaching, and directly developing next-generation dental technologies, his broader professional interests include process scaling, provider calibration, and dental mindset disruption. Dr. Johnson will join live at the 2024 3DHEALS Dental 3D Printing virtual event.

When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Andrew: My experience with 3D printing in dentistry came with my first digital dental implant surgical guides in 2010. While they fit and functioned fairly well, they were made thousands of miles away, cost hundreds of dollars, and took several weeks to return for use. Today, our 3D-printed surgical guides fit perfectly; they cost about $10 and can be printed locally and ready for surgery in about an hour. However, even in those early days, even with the narrow perspective of use in guided dental implant surgery, I knew that the opportunity for 3D printing in dentistry was huge because it had already opened up procedural opportunities for me as a provider that would not have been available to me or my patients without the control and predictability that the digital methods afforded restoratively-driven dental surgery. Never before had we been able to both visualize ideal treatment in a 3D manner but then also accomplish it in reality via a physical manifestation of all that digital pre-planning.

What inspired you to start your journey?

Andrew: Family circumstances propelled me into dentistry as well as the prosthodontics specialty, and as a prosthetic specialist, materials properties and fabrication methods have been central to my professional value. Splitting time between clinical dentistry and laboratory technology testing/consulting forced me to keep current with 3D the evolving 3D printing technologies, but only when desktop 3D printing finally became affordable to manage in my office setting did I finally understand the impact it could have on my patient experience and practice flow.

Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing?

Andrew: I credit my friends in the dental laboratory industry and a few key clinical colleagues who had seen the same light in the industry background and forced it to the fore. I never knew how much dental technology adoption is a consequence of the dental lab side of the industry deciding to substitute digital for conventional services, and also doing so at an increasingly incentivizing cost-point is why most things have progressed on the clinical side of things. However, a few of my mentors had seen a larger incentive earlier, unrelated to lower lab invoices and made a completely different case for adopting 3D printing early. Now that the economics are in line, it’s absolutely a win-win.

What motivates you the most for your work?

Andrew: A passion for problem-solving as well as a fundamental desire to see that as much progress is made in my lifetime so that the next generation of dentists is more capable than we ever imagined. By increasing dentistry’s public appeal, I think we maintain the value of the profession for those who practice it just as much as we do for those who need it.

What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?

Andrew: My biggest obstacles are treatment efficiency and control over the results. A stereotypical prosthodontist requires 3 or 4 patient appointments before a treatment plan is ever proposed, and actual treatment typically takes several months if not years. While some of the variables relate to patient physiology and surgical recovery, many factors do correlate to patient data gathering and prosthetic fabrication timelines. The multitude of digital diagnostic and production technologies—from 3D scanners and virtual treatment planning to CNC machining and 3D printing—have reduced treatment lag and increased quality of outcome tremendously.

What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Andrew: I think the biggest challenge to any of these technologies is widespread adoption. It takes a certain market threshold to produce a return on the R&D investment, and that doesn’t always happen, even when the technology is good for the world. It takes a mixture of cost, quality and convenience to make the case to the mass market. With 3D printing in dentistry, it’s only now catching on in a major way because the original “quality” factor is now mixed with the competitive pricing and appealing ROI calculations as well as the simple user experiences that are now more and more automated. In my opinion, continuing to showcase the multivariate value proposition that continues to intersect the declining cost-curve that has prevented many from adopting 3D printing yet. It’s only a matter of time that every dentist realizes that there are 15 new reasons to buy into 3D printing…which now costs 15 times lest than it did 15 years ago.

If you were granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?


  1. Live the rest of my life having fun solving problems without worrying about making ends meet.
  2. Make a big, positive impact on the world.
  3. Know that my children will be okay in their future paths (but not let them know)

What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice have you heard they should ignore?


  1. No matter what you major in, always minor in computer science. 
  2. Try to create your own business as soon as possible.
  3. Continually challenge yourself and always leave room to invest in self-improvement.
  4. Bad advice to ignore: get your student loans paid off before you “go out on your own”. Do it asap.

What’s your favorite book you read this year and why? Alternatively, what’s your favorite book of all time you read and why?


This year: The Mote in God’s Eye– because it is back to a worry-free imagination-intense pastime of mine-ScifI

All time: The Fountainhead– because it’s a portrait of an extreme talent mixed with extreme passion and places independent thought at the gravitational center of the universe.

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