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Inside Dental Technology
July 2018
Volume 9, Issue 7

Third-Party Trends

When CAD/CAM applications open up, laboratories win

Mark Ferguson

Technological advancements in both the clinical and laboratory space have provided us with incredible tools that directly benefit how patient treatment protocols are established and carried out. Innovations in machinery, materials, and communication platforms enable us to enjoy greater precision with enhanced complete treatment plans. Nowhere is this more evident than in the software arena. Now that the open-vs-closed-system debate has passed, with some of the traditional mostly closed systems adapting to more open formats, we are seeing tremendous advancements in software applications. Often, when we think of software in the dental space, images of the major CAD software modules such as 3Shape Dental System, DentalCAD (exocad), and CEREC (Dentsply Sirona) come to mind. While these play a critical role in the outcome of CAD/CAM restorations, I think the biggest improvements in CAD and CAM software will come from ancillary sources.

Depending on which primary CAD scan software is being used, its ability to transfer files with ease might be enhanced by the addition of a secondary, or ancillary, software program. The add-on may provide much needed assistance in terms of filling scan holes, CAD manipulation, or repositioning articulated virtual models to reorient the X-Y-Z axes in order to accommodate an appropriate transfer of data from one system to the next. One software program that I am particularly excited about is the free Autodesk Meshmixer 3.5, which averts many of these virtual challenges. The multiplicity of CAD/CAM systems used in practices and laboratories and the lack of a standard language/communication platform oftentimes necessitates a software vehicle that provides simple and easy fixes to some of these real challenges. I believe similar software programs will come to light in an attempt to solve these issues.

For laboratories with in-house milling capabilities, open CAM add-on software programs are now providing laboratory owners with the flexibility to reduce machining times and enhance milling efficiencies. Until now the concept of completely open ancillary CAM software had not been embraced by most manufacturers because a simple mistake like a misplaced decimal point could cause alarming errors—from tool and disc breakage to machine crashes. However, I am particularly excited to see more third-party CAM software companies entering the market, keeping their openness at the forefront. This influx has not only led to the development of smaller milling tools for more refined occlusal anatomy and finer detail but also incentivized CAM software manufacturers to create and sell different variations of their software, with customers paying more to have greater flexibility. As the profession becomes more proficient with its understanding of powerful software capabilities, we will see greater versatility in tool paths for different types of restorations—such as tool paths that follow the contours of the object or step-overs in the X and Y axes. Such small differences can dramatically impact the final outcome.

Software advancements that enhance manufacturing outcomes related to CAM or printer setup (such as PreForm from Formlabs) are not the only initiatives coming to the market. We will also see new and more advanced software for completing workflows on increasingly complex cases. For example, implant planning software now allows us to participate earlier in the implant planning and orthodontic treatment protocol process. Significant advancements in cost-effective third-party software packages now allow collaborative implant and orthodontic treatment planning. Having these solutions improves the quality of patient care, eliminates the need for denture conversion in the full-arch space, and decreases surgical appointment times. For esthetic cases, this allows us to start planning the final contours and occlusion with greater input and better information for the final restorative team. A peripheral benefit is that each member of the restorative team (surgeon, restoring dentist, and laboratory technician) can communicate expectations prior to surgery and even share those treatment options using smartphone apps.

Looking to the future, I believe the trend of cost-effective open platforms will continue, but it will incorporate augmented and virtual reality to allow us to work in a more seamless manner. Several manufacturers have introduced powerful virtual reality smile design software capabilities, with one from Ivoclar Vivadent, Kapanu AG, incorporating augmented reality software to provide patients and dental professionals the ability to work toward outcomes derived from realistic expectations. Software will continue to provide the ability for more advanced users to get the most out of their digital workflow. There will always be more plug-and-play options, but when human minds work alongside powerful computer software, the combination offers the opportunity to exceed everyone's expectations.

Tech Showcase

This product showcase spotlights the latest innovations introduced onto the marketplace in the past year. Each of these products demonstrates unique new advances, improvements, or expansion of applications within the software landscape. We celebrate all the new software innovations that have been and will be introduced this year. A complete showcase of products in this category will be published in our 2018 Product iNavigator in November.

Dental Wings DWOS Lab Management Software

Designed to simplify case management and data organization, Dental Wings' DWOS Lab helps increase workflow efficiency in dental laboratories of all sizes. Dynamic schedules update automatically as priorities and workloads change to offer a complete overview in real time.

Kapanu AG

Ivoclar Vivadent purchased startup company Kapanu, and they are working together to develop innovative dental applications that connect real-life processes with the digital world. Their main objective is to determine how the usage of augmented reality can facilitate dental diagnostics, case analysis, and treatment therapies.

DTX Studio

This single software solution from Nobel Biocare and KaVo Kerr allows clinicians, radiologists, operators, assistants, hygienists, and dental technicians to collaborate in a modular solution.

Smile Lynx

Smile Lynx from 3D Lynx is the software for smile design that allows the dentist to present patients the smile of their dreams. It is very simple to use, thanks to an intuitive workflow so that the professional achieves a preview in less than 10 minutes. A video tutorial explains all the steps to finally present an amazing "before" and "after" to the patient.

exocad ChairsideCAD

exocad ChairsideCAD is a complete open-architecture CAD/CAM software platform for single-visit dentistry. The chairside workflow is streamlined, easy to learn, and optimized for usage in the practice, including a step-by-step guide through the design process.

inLab SW 18.0

With the latest update to Dentsply Sirona's inLab Software 18.0, the scope of functions and handling of the software have once again been significantly optimized—for an even wider range of applications and more efficient manufacturing processes in the dental laboratory.

3Shape Smile Design

The 3Shape Smile Design app, built on Digital Smile Design principles, helps create highly esthetic restorative treatment plans based on a patient's desired smile. The suggested restoration can be drawn directly on a patient's 2D image using the app—a workflow that takes only minutes.

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