Digital dentures – how dental technicians can extend their digital expertise
Julie Mroziak, VP of Dentsply Sirona Lab, explains how dental technicians can now extend their digital expertise to include removable dentures, significantly broadening and strengthening their CAD/CAM portfolios.
The CAD/CAM workflow has long since been routine in the production of fixed restorations. So how are the practical benefits of the digital transformation becoming evident?
Julie Mroziak (JM): In crown and bridge prosthodontics, digital procedures are now fully established almost across the board. On the other hand, the fabrication of removable dentures has remained a domain of the analog workflow. Classic complete prosthodontics is not only time-consuming, it also requires a great deal of skill and experience from dental technicians.
In my discussions with numerous laboratory owners, I have learned that when it comes to demanding tasks – as in complete prosthodontics – our shortage of young laboratory technician talent is becoming increasingly obvious. Against this background, it would be desirable to significantly simplify the provision of full dentures by transforming the relevant laboratory workflow into a digital one.
What were the steps that have culminated in this development, and how exactly does this digital process work?
JM: We adopted the Digital Dentures topic as early as last year. With the Lucitone 3D Print denture base material and the IPN 3D Portrait inspired digital tooth line. This is part of our cooperation with Carbon* in the USA. We had initially been working with the actual manufacturing process, that is, the CAM part of the job.
Since then we have moved over to the design part, the CAD part of the job. This is so that we can offer a comprehensive CAD/CAM workflow today. The determining factor is our Inlab Software update to version 20.0. This update allows the laboratory to first design full dentures. Then you can manufacture them using one of several available production methods.
A particularly interesting detail is that there is no need for change in the dental practice: Impressions are still taken using the well-established methods. The digital workflow in the laboratory is based on the familiar in- office procedures, which directly strengthens the digital competence of the dental technician. With Digital Dentures, technicians can provide a sophisticated service for dentists without forcing them to modify their own proven and well-defined workflow.
But what about the workflow in the dental laboratory? Won’t it become more complicated?
JM: On the contrary. And that’s the beauty of the thing. The ease of handling, known to users all over the world as the hallmark of the Inlab Software, has been retained in version 20.0 with its integrated complete prosthodontics workflow. Specifically, the dental technician is guided through the process by the software, step-by-step, from the scan with the extraoral scanner Ineos X5 and the design of the denture base and teeth all the way to the production stage.
This greatly simplifies the entire process and produces reliable results directly. At the same time, we are taking the laboratory’s freedom to make its own decisions very, very seriously. This is why our system is an open system even in complete prosthodontics. It supports multiple paths to reach the desired result.
How exactly would we have to imagine this to work?
JM: As already known from other application areas of the Inlab system, its full-denture indication also provides for seamless, validated, and open modes. We are convinced of beneficial interaction of our components and materials. We develop and refine them as a coherent overall concept, so we always recommend the seamless workflow.
This designates a process in which you stay within the Dentsply Sirona system and use the corresponding materials from Dentsply Sirona, from the Ineos X5 scanner and Inlab Software, to the Inlab MC X5 milling unit.
In terms of materials, we offer the Lucitone 199 Denture Base Disc for milling the prosthesis base and the IPN 3D Digital Denture Teeth, which was specially developed for the digital workflow. However, those who wish can also work in validated mode and use products from our validated partners.
And since Inlab is still an open system, it is also possible to use other open components from other manufacturers. We provide a file export in STL format for the transfer of data.
You mentioned dental technicians’ ‘digital competence’. How can this competence be useful when communicating with the dental practice?
JM: Within the cooperation between the laboratory and the dental practice, laboratory technicians have had the role of material specialist for quite some time now. Many practitioners therefore closely consult with their laboratory to determine which material to use and when. Or, which material should be preferred for a given adhesive technology.
The digital transformation has noticeably broadened the range of competence of dental technicians in many respects. It has effectively turned them into digitisation or workflow experts. Because – let’s face it, the initial impetus for the success of CAD/CAM came from the laboratory. Many dental technicians have led their customers on their way to the digital practice.
So it is only logical that the digital full denture is also created under the leadership of the laboratory. To me, the advantage is obvious. The laboratory technician becomes an indispensable partner for the dental practice in yet another key area. In this respect, I see this expansion of indications as a real gain for the dental laboratory’s portfolio.
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