CNC Machining Role in Orthodontic Instruments

Many beginners in CNC machining think more of it as an only aerospace, automotive, and oil & gas industry go-to manufacturing process. They seldom see it as a medical manufacturing process with an important role in fabricating orthodontics instruments. 

Orthodontics is the study of the teeth and jaw, and CNC machining’s material compatibility and tight tolerance make its important. This article will discuss the manufacturing process and how it relates to orthodontics instruments.

What is an Orthodontic instrument?

An orthodontic instrument is used to diagnose, treat, and prevent teeth and facial issues. These include teeth straightening, jaw alignment, and malocclusion corrections. Exampales of orthodontic instruments are brackets, bands, dental mirrors, and ligatures. 

Orthodontic instruments are made from metal, plastic, glass, or ceramics. Furthermore, each part or the whole instrument has a complex design and can require tight tolerance. Hence, part manufacturers need an accurate manufacturing process like CNC machining. 

Components of  Orthodontic Instruments

Orthodontic instruments come in different materials, shapes, and designs that lends to their unique application. This section will introduce the common types and their designs.

  • Brackets

An orthodontic bracket is a small attachment made from metals, plastic polymers, or ceramics. It has a small base and slot that allows it to anchor the orthodontic wire. Together, it guides tooth movement by withstanding the forces generated during and after orthodontic treatment. 

Stainless steel is the best material for making brackets because it is corrosion resistant. Ceramic brackets further adds invisibility as the brackets slightly blend with the teeth. Lastly, plastic brackets are the best option for temporary setups. 

  • Orthodontic Wires

An orthodontic wire is a flexible wire made from stainless steel and nickel-titanium and passed through the bracket’s slot. It applies pressure to the teeth so stay in position. The wires are thin but can be thick depending on the treatment stage, bracket design, and tool movements. 

The wire’s material makeup can affect its properties. For example, stainless steel orthodontic wires have longer use because of their durability and biocompatiiblity. Nickel-titanium wire’s flexibility and exerting light force on the teeth makes them the right for initial teeth alignment.

  • Bands

A band is a ring-shaped metal attached to the molars or other teeth made using stainless steel. As a result, it is strong and biocompatible. Bands serve as anchors for orthodontic appliances and stabilizing/supporting the teeth during treatment. 

  • Elastics and Hooks

Elastics and hooks or rubber bands are small elastic loops used to apply additional force in orthodontic treatment. Hooks are attachments on brackets or bands used to attach elastics or other auxiliary appliances.

  • Implant Anchors

An implant anchor is a device placed in a patient’s jawbone that provides stable points to apply force to shift the teeth. They are titanium/alloy screws or mini-implants due to their biocompatibility 

  • Springs and Expanders

Orthodontic springs are stainless steel or nickel-titanium tools that generate force that can move the teeth or adjust the jaw position. On the other hand, an expander is an acrylic or metal component that widens the palate or dental arch. 

  • Ligatures

Ligatures are small elastic or wire ties used to hold the orthodontic wire in place on the brackets. It is made from latex or metals and functions in proper alignment and tooth movement. 

Roles of CNC Machining in Orthodontics Instruments

CNC machining plays an important role in the orthodontics industry like any medical part manufacturing industry. The roles include:

  • Precision Manufacturing

CNC machining enables the fabrication of parts with complex design and tight tolerance with a higher degree of precision and accuracy. As a result, parts made using the process are of higher quality.

  • Customization

CNC machining also allows the customization of orthodontic instruments to cater to specific patient requirements such as size, shape, and functions.

  • Batch Production

CNC machines support batch production of orthodontic parts. Hence, you can have hundreds to thousands of components simultaneously. This will increase productivity and reduce lead times.

  • Prototyping and Iterative Design

CNC machining is a rapid prototyping process. Using it, orthodontist parts designers can test and implement new ideas to get parts with the best performance or ergonomics before full-scale production begins.  

General Steps to Machining an Orthodontic Part

The steps below are general CNC machining procedures to make an orthodontic instrument or part.

  • Design the Orthodontic Part

Use CAD software such as AutoDesk, to design the orthodontic part. The CAD model will include the part’s dimensional information, material makeup, etc. However, design should only occur after careful analysis of the parts application or patient anatomical features.

  • Select the right material

Choose a material with the right physical, chemical, and mechanical properties for your part. You should also consider the parts’ biocompatibility since they will function in an oral environment. Materials can be metals (steel, titanium, and stainless steel), plastics, or ceramics. 

  • Prepare the Workpiece

Cut the material into blanks using the right cutting tool. Afterwards, clean it to remove contaminants. 

  • Programming the CNC Machine

Set up the CNC machine and generate the tool paths and G code for the machining process using the CAD model. Furthermore, specify other attributes such as cutting speeds and feed rates.

  • Machining 

Start the machining process. The machining process can be grinding, milling, and turning depending on the type of orthodontic parts

  • Surface Treatment

You can subject the machined parts to surface finishing options such as anodizing or coating to improve performance or aesthetic value. Do a quality control check to see if the paths meet the required specifications before packaging.

What to Consider When Choosing Materials for Orthodontic Instruments Components

Consider the following factors when selecting a material to use for your orthodontic instrument:

  • Strength and Durability

The material should be strong and durable enough to withstand deformation or failure. Stainless steel is the most common material for these purposes because of its low cost, tensile strength, and durability. 

  • Corrosion Resistance

The material must be corrosion-resistant because of its constant exposure to moisture and oral fluid. Stainless steel and titanium are the best metals when corrosion resistance comes into play. Furthermore, you can also use medical plastic and ceramics in making orthodontics instruments.

Using a material, that is not corrosion-resistant material can compromise the instrument’s structural integrity and lead to the release of harmful substances in the patient.

  • Biocompatibility

Materials used for fabricating orthodontic instruments should be biocompatible since they come in contact with human tissue (oral tissue). A chemical or biological interaction between the material and the oral tissue can lead to tissue irritations and other forms of adverse reactions. Examples of biocompatible materials are metals like stainless steel and titanium, and some medical plastics.

  • Resilience and Flexibility

Orthodontic instrument material should be flexible and resilient so the tool can maintain its shape during treatment. Stainless steel is a good choice because it is machinable alongside other materials such as Nickel-titanium (flexibility and resilience)    

  • Ease of Fabrication

The material should be machinable for easier fabrication when working with CNC machining. In many cases, other manufacturing processes such as injection molding and 3D printing might be more suitable. Hence, good manufacturing services such as Zintillon can give the best recommendation.


CNC machining plays a huge role in orthodontics instrument part manufacturing. However, the machining method is not the overall best for making any medical device. Sometimes, other methods such as 3D printing or injection molding can do the job better. 

While this article discusses about the manufacturing process and how it relates to orthodontics instruments, recommendation from reputable manufacturing services provider like Zintillon can be the differences. As a result, understand the process, but ensure you choose the best service provider.


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