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Milling vs Printing in Dental Industry: What are the differences?

Digital Dentistry has brought about significant changes since its introduction in the mid-2000s, reshaping the industry in meaningful ways. Initially met with skepticism, it has now become a vital component of dental practice. As a Dental Laboratory, we often observe confusion regarding milling and printing in the dental sector. Let's discuss the nuances of these processes and their differences, clarifying their roles within our field.


Milling, a cornerstone of subtractive manufacturing in dentistry, involves solid materials shaped within milling units using cutting burs. This process meticulously carves out tooth designs based on digital files, hence its name 'subtractive manufacturing.'

On the other hand, printing epitomizes additive manufacturing. It utilizes materials in powder or liquid form, which are fed into printers. With precision, lasers or light sources solidify these materials layer by layer, crafting the desired design. This innovative approach essentially builds dental objects from scratch, hence its fitting name 'additive manufacturing.


Speed of Milling vs Printing with a similar material on a full platform

The advent of printing technology revolutionized the fabrication process in dentistry, primarily due to its remarkable speed [1]. While milling technology relies on a single cutting bur to shape items one by one, printing offers the advantage of curing multiple designs simultaneously. This key difference makes printing significantly faster, especially when dealing with larger files or quantities.

When small quantities are in the queue, the disparity in speed might not be readily apparent. However, as the volume of work increases, the efficiency of printing becomes markedly evident. With printing, the time required for processing larger quantities is significantly shorter, making it the preferred choice for streamlined fabrication workflows in dental practices.

In essence, printing's ability to handle multiple designs concurrently enhances its speed, efficiency, and overall utility in dental fabrication. As technology continues to advance, these advantages further underscore the indispensable role of printing in modern dental practices.


For years, milling technology has been synonymous with precision in dental fabrication [2]. However, the landscape is evolving rapidly, and 3D printing technology is quickly closing the gap. This progress has paved the way for an expanded array of printable materials that meet the stringent standards for dental applications, including acrylics, wax, ceramics, and beyond.

While milling technology has long held the reputation for accuracy, advancements in 3D printing have ushered in a new era of possibilities. The increasing availability of printable materials signifies a paradigm shift in dental fabrication, offering practitioners a broader selection to choose from when crafting dental prosthetics and appliances.

As 3D printing technology continues to evolve and refine, its growing accuracy and versatility are reshaping the dental industry. Dentists and technicians now have access to a diverse range of materials that not only meet but exceed the benchmark for quality and precision.

When do we use printing and milling?

3D Printing an Occlusal Splint

In the realm of dental fabrication, choosing the right methods is essential. At our medium-sized dental lab, we've honed our approach based on three key factors: cost, turnaround time, and method stability. Here's what we've found works best:

Milling Materials:

- Zirconia

- Castable Wax

- PMMA (Polymethyl Methacrylate)

- Glass Ceramics

- Titanium

Printing Materials:

- Occlusal Splints

- Dental Models

- Pink Gingiva for Implants

- Denture Bases

- Implant Verification Jig

By carefully considering these materials and methods, we find a more consistent quality and efficiency in our practice. As dental technology advances, we stay flexible, integrating new materials and methods into our practice to ensure top-notch results.


In the realm of dental fabrication, the cost is a critical factor that can significantly impact decision-making, especially for practices managing large fabrication volumes [3]. While both milling and printing methods have their merits, understanding their cost dynamics is essential for making informed choices.

As a practice scales up its fabrication volume, the economics of production methods become increasingly relevant. Initially, the costs of milling and printing may appear comparable for small quantities. However, it's the inherent nature of additive manufacturing that gives printing the edge as quantities increase.

Additive manufacturing, as employed in printing, minimizes material wastage by adding material only where necessary. This contrasts with milling, where excess material is carved away, leading to higher material costs, particularly at scale. Consequently, printing becomes more cost-efficient in high-volume scenarios due to its optimized resource utilization.

The decision between milling and printing ultimately hinges on a practice's priorities. While milling offers precision and versatility, printing emerges as the more cost-effective solution for practices prioritizing scalability and cost efficiency.

In conclusion, understanding the cost dynamics of milling versus printing is essential for dental practices looking to optimize their fabrication processes. By aligning priorities with the most cost-effective method, practices can ensure sustainable growth and success in an ever-evolving industry landscape.



  1. Lin, L., Fang, Y., Liao, Y., Chen, G., Gao, C., & Zhu, P. (2019). 3D printing and digital processing techniques in dentistry: a review of literature. Advanced Engineering Materials, 21(6), 1801013.

  2. Herpel, C., Tasaka, A., Higuchi, S., Finke, D., Kühle, R., Odaka, K., ... & Schwindling, F. S. (2021). Accuracy of 3D printing compared with milling—A multi-center analysis of try-in dentures. Journal of Dentistry, 110, 103681.

  3. Niaki, M. K., Torabi, S. A., & Nonino, F. (2019). Why manufacturers adopt additive manufacturing technologies: The role of sustainability. Journal of cleaner production, 222, 381-392.


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