In-House Laboratory With Axsys Versamill Enhances Prosthodontic Practice
Kent J. Howell, DMD, MS, learned precision and discipline working on construction sites with his engineer father, and those traits have served him well in his flourishing prosthodontic practice in Mesa, Arizona. He has been able to channel his skills into his passion for helping others and creating new smiles. Eventually, however, he became increasingly frustrated with his fabrication workflow. Communication with laboratories was difficult and cumbersome. Many times, the restoration would need to be returned to the laboratory for changes, extending patient wait times and increasing expenses. He began to wish that he could make the changes himself. During his residency, he had trained in all aspects of dental laboratory work and had fabricated his own dentures and partials. He had the knowledge-just not the equipment.
Then in 2017, Howell took a course on digital dentistry with Jonathan Abenaim, DMD, that opened his eyes to greater possibilities. The course catapulted him into the dental manufacturing world. What he had once viewed as a frustration had now become an opportunity. He became motivated to learn about computer-aided design (CAD) and hoped to eventually manufacture the majority of his restorations in house. When Howell decided to pursue this course of action and establish an in-house laboratory, he followed Abenaim's recommendation and purchased a mill from Axsys Dental Solutions.
His first investment was the Versamill 5XS. He quickly found that having an in-house workflow allowed him to offer higher-quality restorations without charging the patient more. "It enables me to do more for them, and faster-especially with Axsys, which provides the fastest 5-axis mills on the market," Howell explains.
The Versamill family of milling machines can produce precise restorations in just a few minutes, and they are designed for the reliable, long-term operation that an in-house laboratory needs. Both wet and dry mills are available in 4- or 5-axis configurations, at a variety of price points to suit either the initial investor or the experienced CAD/CAM laboratory. Solutions start below $29,000, with options for milling titanium preform abutments starting under $38,000. The Versamill family features heavy cast aluminum-alloy or aluminum fabricated frames that reduce vibration and long-term wear while increasing the accuracy of the final product, as Howell attests. Quality components give the high-torque spindles the necessary longevity, and large-diameter pre-loaded ballscrews provide optimum performance and high-quality results. Heavy-duty linear guideways work to assure consistent precision at high machining feed rates, and the Versamill also boasts zero stack tolerance rotary axes. The whole design is intended to increase precision and reduce post-machining handwork.
Most importantly to Howell, he says, Axsys provided him with the freedom of an open system, allowing the flexibility to work with any dental design program and integrate the mill with his other technology. He has been able to customize a full digital workflow to suit his practice's specific needs.
"I am able to digitize my patient, pull that into my CAD software, and design whatever is needed: full-arch PMMA provisionals, nightguards, crowns, and more. I can then export the STL file of the part into the CAM software, choose the material, and send it to my Versamill," Howell says. For further versatility, the Versamill 5XS can work with a wide range of materials, including zirconia, PMMA, glass-ceramics, Lava™ Ultimate, resin, wax, and more.
According to Axsys, the strength and rigidity of the compact Versamill milling machines coupled with the undercut machining capability of full 5-axis control provides exact fits, excellent anatomical detail, and optimal restorative margins with fast cycle times and long-lasting tool life. Indications include inlays, onlays, copings, crowns, veneers, splints, and guides.
The Versamill offers many options for customization, which might leave the new user uncertain about the best course of action. However, to accommodate any queries its users have, Axsys offers first-rate customer service, support, and training, according to Howell. As a first-time buyer, he found their support services to be especially helpful.
"Axsys has an excellent team that is there to support me in anything I am trying to achieve," he says. "They make it possible for someone like me to be able to learn the manufacturing side of dentistry at a very high level."
Support options include on-site, help desk, and web-based, and the company also offers specialized fast-start customer service support programs. A customer web portal is available to facilitate secure data exchange and provide access to additional features. Comprehensive training is provided with an emphasis on user-specific functionality. Howell adds that unlike other companies in the industry, Axsys has no secondary concerns such as its own manufacturing, laboratory, or milling center business. Axsys is entirely focused on providing the right technology, training, and support to dental professionals, he continues.
"Their products and training and support programs have been developed over the course of 40 years. They have decades of experience in manufacturing across a wide variety of industries," Howell points out. "They service industries from aerospace to automotive, so they understand manufacturing inside and out, and I love that."
In fact, Axsys has been involved in computer-aided manufacturing since the mid-1970s, and has experience with designing, programming, and machining a wide array of molds, dies, patterns, fixtures, and other production parts and castings, using all manner of materials. They took this expertise and applied it specifically and precisely to the dental market. Howell notes that besides the Versamill line, Axsys also provides dental professionals with CAD/CAM and scanning software, 3D scanners, 3D printers, tooling, furnaces, hard and soft materials, and FDA-cleared implant components.
Incorporating in-house milling has been highly beneficial for Howell's practice. Having a state-of-the-art laboratory on the premises allows him to manufacture temporary and permanent implant bridges and dentures on site and lets him make sure that each restoration fits his patient's unique requirements. Not only has he regained control over the fabrication of his restorations, but he has also streamlined his workflow, reduced costs, and increased customer satisfaction.
"I could not do what I do for my patients, or work at the level that I do, without CAD/CAM technology and the tools that I utilize in my practice," Howell says. "Patients are continually commenting on how much dentistry has changed and how much more pleasant it has become with the advent of this technology. Most of my customers don't know what's happening behind the scenes, but they certainly see the technology that we have and are fascinated by it."
Axsys Dental Solutions