Interview with Rick Ferguson: Teaching Dental 3D Printing

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Dr. Rick Ferguson has been involved in teaching implant dentistry for the last 20 years and has lectured in every major city in the United States as well as internationally. These lecture topics have included treatment planning, case selection, simple and complex surgical placement, and restoration, advanced bone grafting and bone graft materials, use of Computed Tomography and surgical guides, management of complications and failures.

Dr. Ferguson has placed and restored over 5000 dental implants and maintains a private practice with his wife Dr. Katherine Ferguson in Davie, FL emphasizing dental implants and where they also teach a live surgery course.

Dr. Ferguson has been instrumental in implementing implant training programs and hands-on bone grafting courses which have been attended by thousands of dentists. More recently Dr. Ferguson has pursued the use of 3D printing to benefit the clinical dental practice and created the Dental 3D printing Facebook group which has almost 15,000 members worldwide. Dr. Ferguson will be a speaker for the upcoming Dental 3D Printing event.

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

Rick: My first encounter with 3D printing was actually reading about it in high school over 30 years ago while doing computer modeling as a hobby on home-built computers. It was in my infancy but I remember thinking this is amazing but never really understanding the potential.

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

Rick: I saw a dentist use a milled surgical guide to place a dental implant effortlessly and accurately in 2013 and decided this is the future of dental implantology. My research led me to conclude that milling was not actually the most efficient way to create surgical guides and that 3D printing was faster and more cost-effective.

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

Rick: I was inspired by Dr. Michael Scherer who was on the same journey that I was on and published
on the use of a Formlabs 3D printer while I was working on FDM printers.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?

Rick: The ability to make our clinical practice more efficient and provide a better product to our patients. Dentistry is about delivering customized appliances and 3D printing is perfect for rapid prototyping and customization.

Jenny: What is the biggest obstacle in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were
your solutions?

Rick: Proprietary system has always been the norm in digital dentistry which adds to the cost and inefficiency of our workflows. Luckily people like myself and others have found ways around these roadblocks and have forced manufacturers to make their systems more open which allows us to bring 3D printing to more dentists who may have digital systems from various manufacturers. While the profitability afforded by proprietary systems allows companies to pursue R&D, having open platforms allows competition and also innovation. Open platforms also allow more dentists to take advantage of 3D printing.

Jenny: What do you think is the biggest challenge in dental 3D Printing?

Rick: Material science has not kept up with the actual 3D printing technology. Resin technology needs to be improved in the areas of strength and longevity. Also, the environmental impacts need to be addressed. For example. Plastic appliances produced for short-term dental use such as models can be made with biodegradable materials. Post-processing chemicals need to be addressed as well.

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

Rick: As a human being – Peace on earth. As a dentist – Elimination of tooth decay. As a 3D printing dentist – Resins capable of producing dental restorations as strong as Zirconia.

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

Rick: Learn how to code. Computers and logical thinking will become even more important. Ignore politicians – we can solve the world’s problems through technology. Going backward is not a viable option.

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