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COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Whereas it was previously impossible to imagine a dental laboratory adopting a fully digital workflow, digital dentistry has already redefined the previously established dental procedures and empowered dental professionals and clinicians to take the leap and immerse themselves in a digital future. The benefits of dental technology can be clearly seen in the introduction of digital dentures—not only has this facilitated denturists’ and dental clinicians’ work by offering more flexibility and efficiency, but it has also improved the patient experience and enabled patients to become more involved in their own care.
“I have been working with 3Shape for about five years. In the beginning, using denture software was not one of my goals; nonetheless, curiosity about the innovation and computer-aided design offered by 3Shape allowed me an opportunity to appreciate what appeared to be, for the first time, a real game-changer,” Dr Lucio Lo Russo, associate professor of oral disease at the University of Foggia’s School of Dentistry in Italy, told Dental Tribune International. “Since then, huge developments have been made in denture software, and it can now be considered essential for those who want to exploit the benefits of innovation and the related opportunities in dental practices and laboratories,” he added.
According to Russo, using digital dentures offers higher standardisation. This, in turn, manifests itself in higher quality and a great reduction in processing time and, consequently, increases efficiency and profitability. He noted that switching to digital technology for the fabrication of dentures also results in changes to clinical and laboratory approaches. He stated: “No more physical impressions, no more physical casts, no time-demanding procedures. Each step is precisely defined and optimised to save time and enhance effectiveness.”
A clean and enjoyable experience
Germen Versteeg, a denturist and the owner of DTL Mediaan, one of the first fully digital dental laboratories, told Dental Tribune International that besides obvious advantages such as cost-efficiency, improved denture workflow and scaled-up production, working with digital dentures makes the job much cleaner. Whereas it used to be a messy process, leaving fine layers of dust on the working surfaces, Versteeg compared walking into a denture shop now with walking into a wellness centre: “It feels like home and it’s really clean,” he said. “We have a smile design room. So when people come in for the first time we drink a cup of coffee, and we discuss their new smile.”
Using digital dentures also puts more power into the hands of the patients. Versteeg said: “The patients themselves are in charge of their aesthetics, and they can discuss the aesthetics with the help of 3D simulations.”
Versteeg noted that fabricating a new denture is fairly uncomplicated, since it only involves creating a 3D picture of the patient, simulating a new smile and scanning the mouth with an intra-oral scanner, such as 3Shape’s TRIOS. He went on to explain that people used to find wearing dentures quite off-putting. However, since it is a necessity rather than a choice, Versteeg believes that people should wear dentures with confidence: “So why can’t we make it a sexier thing, something to be proud of?”
For those thinking about transitioning to a fully digital production workflow, Versteeg explained that 3Shape software is highly sophisticated. Whether one wants to work with dental models, intra-oral scanners or impressions, all these and more options are already in the software. “You have the flexibility to work in your own way,” Versteeg commented. Additionally, the software possesses older tools, making the transition so much smoother for more conservative dental professionals.
When using a digital workflow, a completely new denture can be made in two to three appointments. This saves time compared with fabricating dentures in a conventional analogue way and consequently boosts patient comfort. Another clear advantage of using digital dentures is reproducibility. Versteeg explained that, when a patient loses a denture or wants to improve the previous one, the denturist has the option of quickly accessing the software, where the back-ups of all CAD/CAM denture designs are saved, and printing or mailing a new denture in very little time.
What 3Shape brings to the table
When talking about his experience with using 3Shape denture software, Versteeg explained that both parties benefit from the cooperation. The dental laboratory provides input and points out the improvements that need to be made in the software or in the workflow, and 3Shape immediately considers the laboratory’s needs and constantly updates the software. As he noted, 3Shape specialises in IT, and dental laboratories perform clinical work, which means that both parties need to give feedback and exchange information that will help improve software quality and increase laboratory productivity. “The great thing about 3Shape is that they listen to the end user. And I think that’s something that makes them really stand out from all other companies,” Versteeg explained.
Go all the way
To make the most of the digital workflow and to truly benefit from it, Versteeg encouraged dental professionals to take the leap and go fully digital from the very beginning. As he highlighted, digital dentures are already being used today, and with every passing day, those who still have not adopted a digital workflow are falling further behind the technology.
“Even in more developed countries, there are millions of edentulous people who have limited access to oral treatments for biological or financial reasons. We still need effective and efficient rehabilitation of edentulous patients that is focused on their functional needs and favours access to treatment,” Russo noted. “Digital technologies applied to removable prosthodontics have the potential to make such treatments affordable for these patients and also profitable for oral healthcare providers,” he concluded.
Experience tomorrow’s dental innovations today
During 3Shape Total Tech Week, a five-day online showcase that runs from 19 to 23 October, dental professionals will have the opportunity to learn more about the possibilities of digital dentistry. With dedicated days for dental laboratories, orthodontists, general practitioners and implantologists, the online event will provide dental professionals from various fields with essential knowledge to advance their businesses.