Interview with Professor Gustavo Mendonca, AM in Dentistry

Dr. Gustavo Mendonça is a Professor at the Department of General Practice at the Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his DDS from the Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil. He also completed his postgraduate training in Prosthodontics and master’s degree in Oral Rehabilitation from the same school. In 2008 he finished his PhD in Genomic Sciences and Biotechnology at the Catholic University of Brasília, Brazil. Dr. Gustavo Mendonça is also a Fellow and a Diplomate of the Academy of Osseointegration. Dr. Gustavo Mendonça’s research interests focus has been related to the use of CAD/CAM materials and 3d printing for clinical use in dentistry and research applications. He also has worked in vitro and in vivo on the effect of osseointegration of implants and biomaterials. In addition to his research, Dr. Mendonça is dedicated to teaching and mentoring the next generation of dental professionals. Dr. Mendonça is passionate about providing high-quality, patient-centered care and ensuring that his students are well-prepared to meet the challenges of the dental profession. Dr. Mendonça just spoke at our Dental 3D Printing 2023 Edition virtual event recently.

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

Gustavo: I learned about 3d printing several years ago but at that time equipment was expensive and not so easy to find. About 6 years ago is when I started to work with it for my teaching and research interests. I thought it was a very good way to fabricate custom devices and facilitate access to custom designs for medical devices in a very affordable way.

What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing?

Gustavo: The possibility of custom fabrication for specific research and patient care needs. It also allowed me to fabricate a lot of tools for educational purposes that would be really hard to get it any other way. I can come to my computer and design what I want using the CAD software and have it printed very quickly. A lot of these can be done with milling machines but it also is much more expensive and limits the shapes you can create.

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

Gustavo: I always had great mentors that inspired me to pursue my career and be a lifetime learner. 3d printing since it is a newer field in dentistry you did not have a lot of resources available. I learned a lot about this following social media groups related to other fields and later applying it to dentistry. Now I also have several colleagues that have a lot of knowledge in 3d printing we always keep in touch to keep up to date.

What motivates you the most for your work? 

Gustavo: Being able to constantly learn more and more and being able to apply these new discoveries in my everyday work for students and patients.

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

Gustavo: Materials that are strong enough and safe for patient care. New research has promising data showing that these materials can soon be made available. And for sure having access to all this equipment is expensive but luckily, I am part of a very good university and I am privileged enough to have access to several of this equipment not only at the dental school but also campus-wide.

We also lack software and workflow using software that is meant for dentistry. For that, I have learned to use other software from different fields that can help adequate the work.

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)?

Gustavo: In dentistry, we still lack materials that can be printed that are strong enough for long-term use and is safe. Once these new materials are tested and approved for safe patient use the potential is very big. As I already mentioned a lot of these can be done with milling machines but it is also expensive and limits the shapes you can create.

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

Gustavo: In 3d printing / bio-printing? 1- I wish we could have strong materials that would be readily available and easy access to take 3d printing and dental care to remote areas. 2- That 3d printed ceramics and metal could be easily accomplished with small-size desktop 3d printers. 3- That bio-printing would be accomplished with materials that would be also ready to any specific tissue/site/organ. For example, we would have a “resin” ready for printing a “real” tooth with all the parts the tooth has (enamel, dentin, cement) and as we place it in the mouth the cells would come to occupy their space making the tooth vital again. And of course, I wish for world peace and health.

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

Gustavo: The time to learn about all this technology is now (good advice).

The materials/technology are not there yet. Yes, I agree we still have a long way to go but for sure what we have now can be applied at some extent and it is reliable.

If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be? 

Gustavo: Digital technologies in Health care to improve and promote patient-specific treatment.

What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication? 

Gustavo: Learning how to work with the software that allows me to design and model whatever I want to 3d print. This way I can a tooth or the entire mouth. Understanding different software and what they can do even outside dentistry can always help me apply these in my field of study.

What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing? 

Gustavo: I cannot think of anything. All I learned so far has been very useful. By the time the university bought the equipment we currently use they were the most updated. For sure there are more things to invest in now.

What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?

Gustavo: Probably when I decided to continue my career as a researcher/educator and pursue my Ph.D. But for sure it has been very rewarding, and it did not bring any regret. 

What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?

Gustavo: I enjoy spending time outside with my wife and kids. We enjoy traveling and visiting new places. 

What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you?  =)

Gustavo: Using 3d technologies to help improve and to allow custom patient care.

Relevant Publications:

Please see a more complete list of publications here.

In vitro osteogenesis process induced by hybrid nanohydroxyapatite/graphene nanoribbons composites

The Role of MicroRNAs in the Osseointegration Process

Bone Response to Porous Tantalum Implants in a Gap Healing Model

Nanostructured Alumina-Coated Implant Surface: Effect on Osteoblast-Related Gene Expression and Bone-to-Implant Contact In Vivo

Validation of a method of quantifying 3D leakage in dental restorations

Interview with Dr. Ioanna Gidarakou: 3D Printing Orthodontics

Dental 3D Printing: Pioneers and Rulebreakers (On Demand, 2022)

Dental 3D Printing: Latest in Digital Dentistry

Dental 3D Printing – The Ultimate Guide

Metal 3D Printing in Dentistry – Restoration

Interview with Iain Mcleod: AI for CAD

Interview with Professor David Zopf

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