Army Veteran Mark Gehrke had been missing his teeth for years and his upper jaw had significant bone problems.

His dentist, Dr. Christopher French, created a 3D printed model of his upper jaw to plan the surgical placement of four dental implants, using the model as a guide to plan the placement of the implants.

Gehrke was thankful: “I appreciate getting the best care possible.”

3D technology helps create guides for dental implant placement and medical models which aid in surgical planning. A digital capture is transferred to a 3D Printer or Dental Mill to create the dental surgical guides or other products needed to support Veteran Patient care.

In 2018, there were over 600 patients needing surgical guides and 185 patients needing intra-oral occlusion guides at the Minneapolis VA.

Currently, Veterans travel to and from many VA Dental Clinics with waiting times up to six weeks for oral surgery and dental appliances primarily due to turn-around times from outsource vendors. Access and care are improved when VA Dental Clinics are able to create dental appliances in-house with faster service for Veterans.

Cast costs down from $50 to $5

The addition of a 3D printer enables the adoption of a more efficient in-house process for the production of dental arch casts impacting 3,000 patients annually. A cast made using plaster costs $50 each or $150,000 annually.  With a Dental 3D printer, the “cast” is made directly from the intra-oral scan at a cost of $5 each or $15,000 annually.

The Veterans Integrated Service Network 23 Dental 3D Scanning, Printing and Milling Project is placing Oral 3D Scanners in each VA Dental Clinic for dentists to scan Veteran teeth for use in milling or 3D modeling. Currently all 11 Dental Clinics within VISN 23 outsource for dental bridges, crowns, night guards and dental appliances.

The Minneapolis VA Dental Clinic has been using 3D printers and intra-oral scanners to improve patient outcomes and increase efficiency in Veteran care.

Dr Kirby Amonson: “With this initiative, the VA Midwest Region will become the first VA Network to convert operations from wet cast molding to digital dentistry and minimize or eliminate the outsourcing of crowns, bridges, night guards and other services for our Veterans”. Amonson is the VISN 23 Dental Lead and a strong supporter of 3D technology.

3D models of sinus

Using a 3D Printer, Dr Christopher French created these models of Veteran Mark Gehrke’s sinus.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Saving time and increasing satisfaction

“Use of 3D printing is a significant movement within the VA for improving Veteran patient care through reducing clinical and surgical times while increasing Veteran satisfaction,” according to Dr Thomas Girvan, Chief, VA Central Dental Laboratory in Dallas, TX.

Dr Beth Ripley, Chair, VHA 3D Printing Advisory Council, is driving the national vision on centralizing 3D technology efforts within the Veterans Health Administration. Multiple VA facilities have been active in using 3D Printers for Research, Prosthetics and Pre-surgical modeling.

Ripley noted, “One of the immediate impacts on improving clinical care and operations via 3D technology is in the Dental Service. The VISN 23 Digital Dentistry Initiative establishes a model within the VHA for Dental Clinics transitioning to Oral 3D Scanning and Printing. As a result of this transition, VISN 23 will also be the first Network to host a 3D Printer in each of their VA Hospitals.”

David Adriansen, VISN 23 Simulation Program Director, Minneapolis VA Health Care System

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Published on Jul. 19, 2019

Estimated reading time is 2.8 min.

Views to date: 305


  1. Lorraine Johnson July 30, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    I had dental work done while I was in the service and got Lock jaw where my jaw was locked for over 2 months and I have been having trouble since then and I can’t get dental care I was promised Care

  2. Laurie Koehler July 29, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    I’m rated 100% unemployability, I receive dental care thru the VA in Sacramento. I have been waiting for over two years to get my upper denture to fit. My Dentist screwed up all 3 that he fit me for, each time I asked about implanted and the dentist said the VA doesn’t do implants but he finally said Travis Air Force Base David Grant Medical Center does them. The guy is a total waste, why does the VA put up with such incompetent losers. I wish I could get all my dental care at David Grant.

  3. stanleyshack July 29, 2019 at 10:19 am

    If I quakify how many visit or how much dental work can I get?

  4. Robert F Edwards July 28, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I only have 10 percent disability so get no dental care. I simply cannot afford private services. I served at Fort McClellan in 1972. It has been a Superfund site to clean up the impact of various substances like agent orange. I was a NBC Specialist as well. VA keeps rejecting application for disability claims. My teeth are crumbling. I have neuropathy in all limbs…etc. I guess I will be completed toothless and unable to around.

  5. William L Gale July 28, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    I wasn’t on the ground in Viet Nam but I was on the USS CIMMARRON AO-22 from Aug 1960 till Dec 1962 and most of my duty was in the pacific and the So china sea. Am I considered a Viet Nam vet as I was doing unreps for the 7th fleet

  6. Clifford Barker July 26, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    How do you find out if you qualify for dental help

    • Ellis Green August 13, 2019 at 12:46 am

      I have the same question as Cliff Barker had last month! How do I get dental medical assistyance? I have 30% disability, currently

  7. Stephen Delaney July 26, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    First I am a 100% disabled a few years back I went for some dental work at the V.A. Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa.
    Bad choice first the students pulled all my teeth in one session. Then I had to wait a number of months for false teeth.
    I was asked did I want implants I said yes but it was never brought up again. when I at last got my set of full dentures I complained about the fit and an older dentist told me only to wear them the false teeth, when I was outside working or doing something else. It was not till I bought dental insurance did I get a set of dentures that fit and I can wear all day, not by the V.A. !

  8. Robert Dudas July 26, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    I am a Vietnam Veteran and am registered with the Newington Ct Location.

    Do I qualify for Dental Coverage of any kind ?

    Robert Dudas

  9. Gia July 26, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Veterans are charged a copayment for nonservice-connected care provided directly by VA or through a community provider (doctor) outside of VA. The copayment amount is based on the type of health care service you receive and your financial situation.

    Some Veterans may be EXEMPT from paying copayments, and may qualify for free health care and/or prescriptions based on special eligibility factors. You can explore your eligibility for VA health care beneftis using the online Health Benefits Explorer tool or by contacting VA at 877-222-8387.

    Start by fill out an Application for Health Benefits: VA Form 10-10EZR

    Documents and information needed when applying:
    ◾Your most recent tax return (if applicable), to include any income in W-2
    ◾Social Security numbers for yourself and your qualified dependents
    ◾Account numbers for any current health insurance you already have (like Medicare, private insurance, or insurance from your employer)

  10. Gia July 26, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    You may qualify as:

    Class I: You may qualify for: Any needed dental care

    Class IIC: You may qualify for: Any needed dental care
    (Example: If you are former prisoner of war).

    Class IV: Any needed dental care*
    (Example: If you have one or more service-connected disabilities rated 100% disabling).

    *Please note: If you’re being paid at the 100% disabling rate based on a temporary rating (for a reason such as a long stay in the hospital or rehab care), that doesn’t qualify you for this benefit.

    Class IV: Any needed dental care*
    (If you are unemployable (unable to work), and you get disability compensation at the 100% disabling rate due to service-connected conditions)

    *Please note: If you’re being paid at the 100% disabling rate based on a temporary rating (for a reason such as a long stay in the hospital or rehab care), that doesn’t qualify you for this benefit.

  11. Gia July 26, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Priority group 1
    ◾Have a service-connected disability that we’ve rated as 50% or more disabling, or
    ◾Have a service-connected disability that we’ve concluded makes you unable to work (also called unemployable), or
    ◾Received the Medal of Honor (MOH)

    Priority group 2
    Have a service-connected disability that we’ve rated as 30% or 40% disabling.

    Priority group 3
    ◾Are a former prisoner of war (POW), or
    ◾Received the Purple Heart medal, or
    ◾Were discharged for a disability that was caused by—or got worse because of—your active-duty service, or
    ◾Have a service-connected disability that we’ve rated as 10% or 20% disabling, or
    ◾Were awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C § 1151, “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation”

    Priority group 4
    ◾Are receiving VA aid and attendance or housebound benefits, or
    ◾Have received a VA determination of being catastrophically disabled

    Priority group 5
    ◾Don’t have a service-connected disability, or you have a non-compensable service-connected disability that we’ve rated as 0% disabling, and you have an annual income level that’s below our adjusted income limits (based on your resident zip code), or
    ◾Are receiving VA pension benefits, or
    ◾Are eligible for Medicaid programs

    Priority group 6
    ◾Have a compensable service-connected disability that we’ve rated as 0% disabling, or
    ◾Were exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or
    ◾Participated in Project 112/SHAD, or
    ◾Served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, or
    ◾Served in the Persian Gulf War between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998, or
    ◾Served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987

    VA may also assign you to priority group 6 if you meet all of the requirements listed below. You:
    ◾Are currently or newly enrolled in VA health care, and
    ◾Served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, or were discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, and
    ◾Were discharged less than 5 years ago

    Note: As a returning combat Veteran, you’re eligible for these enhanced benefits for 5 years after discharge. At the end of this enhanced enrollment period, we’ll assign you to the highest priority group you qualify for at that time.

    Priority group 7
    ◾Your gross household income is below the geographically adjusted income limits (GMT) for where you live, and
    ◾You agree to pay copays

    Priority group 8
    ◾Your gross household income is above VA income limits and geographically adjusted income limits for where you live, and
    ◾You agree to pay copays

  12. Gia July 26, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    You may qualify for enhanced eligibility status: meaning you’ll be placed in a higher priority group 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,6,7 or 8, which makes you more likely to get DENTAL benefits, if you meet at least one of the requirements listed below, At least one of these must be true. You:
    ◾Receive financial compensation (payments) from VA for a service-connected disability
    ◾Were discharged for a disability resulting from something that happened to you in the line of duty
    ◾Were discharged for a disability that got worse in the line of duty
    ◾Are a recently discharged combat Veteran
    ◾Get a VA pension
    ◾Are a former prisoner of war (POW)
    ◾Have received a Purple Heart
    ◾Have received a Medal of Honor
    ◾Get (or qualify for) Medicaid benefits
    ◾Served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975
    ◾Served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998
    ◾Served at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987

  13. Charles Asami July 26, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve got so many gripes against the army and the VA in general that it would take a book.

    First of all, why does the VA and military in general insist on using acronyms. Why can’t you spell out the subject you’re talking about. I see BHS and I loose all interest in what you’re talking about. It’s exactly like trying to understand morse code.

    Second, I’m not lucky enough to be 100% disabled so dental treatment was not available to me through the VA. It gets me that all veterans have to be put in a percentage of disability. WHY IS THAT!!! WE SERVED!. We weren’t given a guarantee of non-injury or percentage thereof. I’m sure this complaint is not news to you. Why don’t you fix it.

    I never wanted to rock the boat before, especially since I’m being successfully treated for prostate cancer by the VA…but I have asked about dental treatment before. Dentists know this but Doctors don’t seem to recognize the effect of dental disease on the overall health of patients. It’s my opinion it has to do, in part, with the arrogance of Doctors.

    Sorry for being so long winded, I got carried away.

    Charles Asami

  14. Renae Renhcel July 26, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    I tried one of those dental schools. Southern Illinois University of dentistry. The 1st year student assigned to me was pretty much unsupervised. In stead of pulling one broken front tooth, he pulled 3 health ones. Now I have no front teeth. I had just spent near a thousand dollars at UMKC dental school and was almost finished. I e visit to SIUD and they destroyed all the work previously done. Then SOUD told me for $10,000.00 they would fix it. You can’t sue dental schools. It’s kept me from getting many jobs.

  15. Lesley Holman July 26, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Is this available in the Cape Coral Florida area? What would be the total out of pocket expense for veterans?

  16. Thomas Byrne July 26, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Having the best VA Dentist in the world helped restore my oral health. It’s a long process, saving some teeth to act as pressure plates. DR Bidwell created a full biting platform so I can eat. Work continues to complete the process. It takes the full Cooperation of the clinic for extraction, root canals, and prosthetics. I thank Dr Psi her staff and Dr Bidwell outstanding dedication to the veterans at the Durham VA in North Carolina. Initially I was outsourced to community for total extraction. But after consult with Dr Bidwell, I went with the VA plan. A long slow process but great outcomes. Step by step. 100% service connected.

    • Thomas Byrne July 26, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Please expedite the equipping of Dr Bidwell’s practice at the Durham VA with the newest 3d technology to increase the effectiveness and reduce the costs for Dr Psi’s clinic. This would provide care for many more deserving Vets.

  17. Wayne Melberg July 26, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    So what. I’m cant get dental care through the VA. More smoke and mirrors. Vippity do dahhh….

  18. Michael, "Mike", G Helbing July 26, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Dental health impacts the all health. The mouth is entrance of all good. Bad mouth, bad health. Dentisty for all is needed in this VA and the whole country would cut down health costs a lot. Penny wise and pound foolish.

  19. Robert Hess July 26, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    You do veterans a large disservice by making it seem like they can get help for their ailing teeth. They can’t. Don’t tease us with stories like this when millions of veterans have no dental care.

  20. Stephen F Howard July 26, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Who can use this dental benefit? I am retired with 10% disability. I just visited with a prosthodontist who told me implants would cost me over $40,000. Why don’t retirees have any dental benefits? When I joined the Army in 1976; I was told that retirees would be entitled to free medical. dental, and vision coverage for life. When I reached my eighteenth year of service, they informed us, that we were no longer entitled to free medical. dental, and vision benefits. We had to start paying for these benefits. The dental plans offered to military retirees are expensive and don’t pay diddly squat, for any dental procedures, that older people need.

  21. Gary Ellis July 26, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    To bad Vietnam Veterans are not covered

  22. FJB July 23, 2019 at 1:23 am

    My VA cardiologist wrote up a report that my teeth are causing more health issues than previously thought.
    Three heart attacks, pacemaker/defibrillator implant later- I’m only 20% SC so I don’t qualify for dental work, even under the cardiologists recommendation that I need to have all teeth removed, dentures made.
    Speaking to the Dental Clinic, the “boss” in charge, he denied me this care because “I wasn’t proactive with my health”
    My heart issues are hereditary
    Dental failure, also hereditary- medication caused
    Thank you VA !
    Insulting me with the denial!

    • Dennis Laughlin July 26, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      Sir, dental work through the VA is very hard to get, or even qualify for. This article on 3D printing is great, but not applicable to a high percentage of veterans.
      I’m a County VSO in Nebraska. We have a “Nebraska Veterans Aid” fund that we use for cases like yours. I would advise you to talk to your local CVSO and see if your state has this kind of aid to veterans. Implants are approved as “anchors” when necessary.

  23. Chad Childers July 21, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    I am at 70% service connected disability and I can’t get dental care at the VA. I really need implants but I have no way to get them.

    • Gia July 26, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      Along with your 70%, you also need to be on VA-UNEMPLOYABLE status.

  24. Alice Brown July 21, 2019 at 12:37 am

    I had ask about implants at the Temples TX. VA
    I was told the VA does do implants.

  25. William Kelman July 20, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    I asked my dentist at the VA in Buffalo NY about implant and was told I couldn’t get them. I am 10% for dental, and 100% permanent and total over all. I think he just didn’t want to do them

  26. John Y. Keith Jr. July 20, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    I’m 100% service connected…I’ve recently moved from Hawaii to Texas for failing health conditions. My daughter lives in Houston and there’s a VA center here but, the traffic is so bad and my eyesight prevents me from driving in such a large city. I need immediate help in getting full mouth implants. I’ve lost a lot of teeth and have a problem now with remaining teeth that no one seems to have any answers. Long story short they have worn down to almost my gums. They need to be pulled and implants in replace but, I have been given numerous explanations and excuses on why it can’t be done here or why this facility doesn’t have the means to help me ! I need help…I have to have remaining teeth pulled and implants because I too have gum damage and dentures will never work. I have a partial now that fits terribly and I can only chew certain foods. Please, please help me find a dental clinic and dentist willing to do this procedure. My name is John Keith…again I’m 100% service connected disabled navy veteran. Thank you for your time !!!

  27. Williams Richard July 20, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    3D technology is really a good development, less cost and quick delivery.

  28. Ervin Roberson July 20, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I need work done having pain I have some teeth missing I would like to try it

  29. john sprague July 19, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Waiting times up to six weeks? Dream on…

    I waited 8 months to get in to fix a bad set of choppers the VA gave me. Once they did ID that I had the problem, it took from April to August again to get another appointment scheduled to fit a new set.

    That makes a year. And It aint over yet….

  30. James Laubler July 19, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Is the V.A. now paying for IMPLANTS?

    • stanleyshack July 29, 2019 at 10:18 am

      I am getting a 30 % disability from the V.A. But I have lot of money. What will I be charged for dental implants?

  31. Richardkish July 19, 2019 at 11:11 am


    • Patrick Tracy July 26, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      If you are not able to get dental services from the VA, there may be an alternative. If you live near a dental school, many have graduate residence training for graduate dentists in Prosthedontia and other specialties. You can get very good services in general in these clinics. The costs are about 50% of what you would pay to a private dentist. The only drawback is that it takes time for them to give you the results you wish. I had 4 implants, 21 crowns and several veneers as well as a number of gum a two year period. This was done with 60 or so visits in this period of time.

      They have been in for a period of 12 years and they are working well.

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