Dr. Gordon Lai: 3D Printing in Endodontics

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Dr. Gordon Lai received his DDS degree from University of California School of Dentistry in 2006 and subsequently completed a one-year GPR at the VA Palo Alto. While serving as the associate dental director at a community clinic in the SF Bay Area for 10 years, he was also active in mentoring residents for the UCSF/NYU Langone AEGD residency program. He subsequently completed his endodontics specialty training at the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in 2020 and is currently teaching part-time as an assistant professor at UOP as well as working in private practice. One of his main areas of research interest is finding innovative ways to incorporate 3D printing, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality into clinical practice as well as educating dental students. Gordon just spoke at 3DHEALS Dental 3D Printing event recently.

When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing?

Gordon: My first encounter with 3D printing was during my endodontic residency and reading articles about the different applications 3D printing has been utilized for endodontic treatment. It really blew my mind to see how this technology could be used to benefit patients during root canal treatment and it made me want to learn how to do this on my own. 

Interview with Gordon Lai

What inspired you to start your journey?

Gordon: During my second year of endo residency at the University of Pacific, unfortunately, our dental school was shut down for several months due to the Covid pandemic and I had a lot of free time. It was during this time, that I bought my own 3D printer and started to learn about how to utilize this technology for endo applications. I look back on this period of time and consider this one of the positive things for me that resulted from the pandemic.

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

Gordon: Rather than one person, I would say Youtube has been my greatest source of inspiration along this journey. Through watching various tutorials on Youtube regarding different facets of 3D printing, I have been able to grow in my understanding and usage of 3D printing. 

Interview with Gordon Lai

What motivates you the most for your work? 

Gordon: I think one of the biggest motivations for my work is due to my passion for teaching. I love learning how to implement new technology and passing that knowledge on to my dental students and residents. It’s such a rewarding experience every time I see my dental students get excited about how 3D printing can be applied to their daily treatment of patients.

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

Gordon: I think one of the biggest obstacles in my work is financial constraints. One day, I would love to have access to higher-end 3D printers capable of printing in multiple colors.

Interview with Gordon Lai

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

Gordon: In the dental field, I think one of the biggest challenges is the learning curve and dentists being able to find time in their busy lives to learn the process and train their staff as well. Thankfully, in recent years, there has been much more aware of how 3D printing can be beneficial to our patients as more dentists are giving lectures on this topic, and also the technology itself is getting cheaper and more accessible to purchase for individual dentists.

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

Gordon: I would love an unlimited budget to buy all the 3D printers and related software/accessories I want to try out and use for research purposes. I would also love more hours per day so that I can have enough time to get the work I need to do done and still be able to have quality time with my family. 

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

Gordon: I would tell them whatever you choose to do, be passionate about pursuing it, and don’t do it half-heartedly. Always strive for excellence in what you do, but also expect to fail and experience disappointments along the way. Sometimes I hear people say “failure is not an option” but I would say to not be afraid of failure when it comes since often we all learn and grow the most from our failures and mistakes. 

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