Digital Dentures Lead to Laboratory's Best Year
3D printed dentures turn a skeptic into a believer
Conrad J. Rensburg, ND, NHD, has seen certain trends in the dental laboratory profession—profit margins shrinking, businesses closing. He just does not see those trends in his own laboratory. Absolute Dental Services experienced approximately 20% growth in 2019, including more than 30% for its national business.
"It was the best year in our 25-year history," says Rensburg, Owner and Head of Dental Implants for the four-location laboratory in North and South Carolina. "People say the industry is not growing, but it is."
Among the keys to Rensburg's success has been his determination to not only invest in the best new technology but also maximize the impact of that technology in his laboratory. He challenges his team to think outside the box by thinking first about what would be exciting and innovative, and then using technology to make it a reality.
"I have been telling my team, ‘The time to follow is over; the time to innovate is now,'" Rensburg says. "We have the technology at our disposal that only large companies had in the past. Once you have STL files, technicians can teach themselves that they can create whatever they can conjure up in their imagination. We can become innovators."
One area where Absolute Dental Services has innovated most this year is in removables—despite having been primarily a fixed laboratory for many years.
"We developed our removables department out of need because of the gray area created by implant dentures," Rensburg says. "Now, it has become one of the more profitable parts of our business."
A turning point in Absolute's denture business came during the summer of 2019, when Rensburg reluctantly drove 2 hours to Dentsply Sirona headquarters to see the new Lucitone Digital Print workflow with Carbon's 3D printing platform. After nearly 2 years of refusing to lease a Carbon printer, he placed an order on the spot.
"The first time I saw the Lucitone printed denture, I was literally dumbfounded," Rensburg says. "I used to see printed dentures on social media and think, ‘How can people sell this? The material is brittle and translucent and just does not look like a traditional denture.' So I could not believe these dentures were printed. In 30 years in this industry, I have never seen dentures of that quality. It is an absolute game-changer for us."
The Lucitone Digital Print workflow includes five core material system products to complement Carbon's 3D printing platform: Lucitone Digital Print 3D Denture Resin, IPN 3D Digital Denture Teeth, Lucitone Digital Try-in 3D Trial Placement Resin, Lucitone Digital Fuse 3-Step system, and the inLab Speedcure Processing Unit. The system enables laboratories to print up to eight denture arches in approximately 2 hours. The dentures resist breakage because of an innovative formula that exceeds ISO standards for high impact and flexural strength. The formula includes True Color Technology for consistent shade results in five Lucitone shades.
"We have the ability to print dentures quickly and efficiently, with premium esthetics, opacity, and strength," Rensburg says. "It truly is one of the most innovative products I have ever seen in my career. It is very rare that you look at something and just instantly know that it will change the industry."
Of course, there are skeptics. Rensburg tells the story of one manufacturer representative who visited his laboratory and told him that leasing the Carbon printer was a mistake because printed dentures could not compete with the milled variety. Rensburg showed him a Lucitone Digital Print denture, and the representative conceded that it looked impressive but said he had heard that they crack when dropped on the floor.
"So I threw the denture over his head at a wall approximately 20 feet away," Rensburg says. "It hit the wall, came back, and landed right at my feet. I stomped on it, and then spun and kicked it across the laboratory, probably 90 feet. I said, ‘Go see if it cracked.'"
Of course, it had not. The strength of the Lucitone Digital Print denture is such that Absolute offers an unconditional 12-month replacement policy.
"Our dentists literally cannot believe how great these dentures are," Rensburg says.
With Lucitone Digital Print dentures, Absolute expects more growth in 2020—and beyond.
"This is just the start of it," Rensburg says. "Dentsply Sirona is working on so many more things. I am so excited about where the industry is going."
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