3D Printing Helps Small Laboratory Provide Optimal Predictability
Digital denture process makes complex cases more manageable
Jeremy Wohlers spent 4 years working chairside with his father, J. Robert Wohlers, DDS, so when he opened Esthetics in Function Dental Lab in 2013, his vision of success entailed making things easier for dentists so the entire team could have more predictable outcomes.
"Some people think success is just making money," Wohlers says. "However, my philosophy is that predictable outcomes lead to predictable income."
Esthetics in Function is a one-person laboratory in Yakima, Washington. Wohlers specializes in complex full-mouth rehabilitations, and he has no plans to add employees because he prefers to have his hands on every aspect of every case. He wants dentists to think of him as a fixer—someone who can find solutions for even the most difficult cases.
"Full-mouth rehabilitations often require the dental technician to work outside the box in order to achieve the result that the patient wants," he says. "I hope my clients know me as someone capable of doing that."
Dentists also want speed and accuracy, so Wohlers knew he needed to invest in CAD/CAM technology in order to serve his clients as well as possible.
"Isaac Newton said, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,'" Wohlers says. "Technology does not require us to forget our past. We continue to use the same principles to make dentures that we have always used; we are just adding an element to make the process easier. Digital technology allows me to speed up my process and add more accounts without sacrificing quality."
Wohlers purchased his first scanner and CAD software a little more than a year ago. He chose not to invest in a milling machine because of the possibility that 3D printing could make milling technology outdated in the near future.
Six months after purchasing his scanner, Wohlers added a 3D printer. He did extensive research to find the machine that fit his business best and eventually decided on the cara Print 4.0 from Kulzer.
"I chose the cara Print 4.0 because I need to work with a company that is willing to think outside the box," he says. "Removables have not yet caught up to crown and bridge in terms of CAD/CAM technology, so I need to be able to try new things and sometimes use the software in creative ways."
Wohlers uses the printer to fabricate products such as night guards that previously had been cumbersome to produce, as well as try-in dentures.
"The printer has opened some new doors and also made some processes more profitable," he says.
The try-in dentures are part of Kulzer's Pala Digital Denture system, which can reduce the number of patient visits from five or more to as few as two. Wohlers can receive digital files from a dentist and print a try-in the same day.
"Dentists want things as quickly as possible," he says. "With the Pala Digital Denture system and the cara Print 4.0 in my laboratory, I am able to meet their demands."
While Wohlers uses traditional techniques to process the final denture, technology helps with the accuracy. CAD/CAM software provides model analysis, which Wohlers considers to be quality control.
"The software helps put the teeth where they will function properly in the mouth and be supported by bone structure," he says.
Additionally, when patients need replacement dentures, Wohlers is able to reprint the try-in, eliminating every prior step.
"Recreating a denture was a nightmare before this process," Wohlers says. "In addition to the time and labor required, the final prosthetic was rarely exactly the same as the previous one that the patient had grown accustomed to wearing."
As additive manufacturing technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, Wohlers feels confident that he has a partner that will keep him at the forefront.
"Many companies apply ‘bread crumbs' of technology from crown and bridge to removables, but Kulzer does not do that," he says. "They are constantly taking the next step, using technology to its full advantage and developing new technology to further the industry. That is the kind of partner I want."
That attitude and philosophy are what Wohlers wants to show through to his dentists. He says they appreciate when he is able to help them utilize the latest technologies to provide the most predictable outcomes for patients. They also appreciate the quick turnaround times.
"Dentists are ecstatic at our ability to handle complex cases predictably and quickly," he says. "Patients do not want to wait for their restorations. The accuracy and speed of the cara Print 4.0 have made it a lot easier to live up to the expectations of both the dentist and the patient."
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