Academia Allows Dentist to Explore Revolutionary Technologies
In-house digital denture system saves time, material costs
Richard Zimmermann, DDS, first pursued a career in dentistry because he had a passion for science, biology, and working with his hands. So when it came time to choose a specific career path after 9 years as a dentist in the Navy, Zimmermann wanted something that would allow him to focus more on theories and learning than on the business of a private practice. With this in mind, he embarked on a career in academia.
"Private practice is like owning a small business," Zimmermann says. "My father was a small business owner, and I knew that was not for me. I like academia because, instead of focusing on the bottom line, I can focus on dentistry."
Those benefits of academia have allowed Zimmermann to expand his horizons as well. He has started programs such as one that allows senior dental students to learn implant surgeries. He has explored various new technologies. In 2010, Zimmermann persuaded his department chair to purchase one of the earliest dental 3D printers to produce patient-specific models from STL files for pre-doctoral students to practice surgery.
"These avenues would be more difficult to pursue if I were in private practice," he says. "In academia, I am able to look at emerging technologies, evaluate the workflows, see if they will work in our environment, and how they can fit in an academic setting."
One such new technology was digital dentures. Zimmermann explored how the newest methods of producing dentures could support traditional teaching methods.
Currently, he uses the Baltic Denture System through Amann Girrbach's Ceramill workflow, and he also anticipates using VITA Vionic through Amann Girrbach when that becomes available.
The Baltic Denture System process opens up a new way of manufacturing full dentures in a digital workflow. Combining the work steps in the dental practice and processes in the laboratory into a single workflow stands for quality and economy: less manual work, predictable results, high-quality materials, reproducibility, and reduced allergenic potential.
"Laboratories are moving away from stone models," Zimmermann says. "Digital solutions might cost more money up front, but they allow you to remove other expenses that add up over time, including materials and labor. We can be much more efficient with our inventory and workflows."
One of the most significant advantages of the Baltic Denture System compared with other digital denture systems is the ability to take an impression and offer an esthetic try-in in one visit.
"Other systems allow you to take the impression, vertical dimension of occlusion, and other data, but they require you to wait for another set to do the esthetic try-in," Zimmermann says. "The Baltic Denture System really streamlines the workflow."
At the same time, the Baltic Denture System provides flexibility in workflows.
"I can utilize a traditional workflow with impressions, wax rims, etc," he says, "and still use the Baltic Denture System to mill the denture."
Combining those factors with Amann Girrbach's Ceramill system, milling the dentures in a Ceramill Motion 2, offers even greater benefits.
"Keeping the whole process in-house, we decrease our costs tremendously," Zimmermann says. "It is also educational because students can work on the design software. They are learning at the same time."
The impact on the patient is not only the ability to receive a quality denture in fewer visits, but more economical pricing as well because the dentist and laboratory can pass along their cost savings.
"Dentures will be more affordable, and we will be able to offer a wider range of dentures instead of one solution," Zimmermann says. "Traditionally, dentures cost a certain amount of money and laboratories could not fluctuate because the time and material costs did not change. Immediate dentures and final dentures required the same amount of time to make, so laboratories were hard-pressed to give dentists price breaks on the different denture types. Now, the Baltic Denture System allows you to offer dentures at various price points. An immediate denture can be at a lower price point. The patient's costs will be less and they will be more likely to accept treatment."
Zimmermann says the system also offers opportunities for dentists and laboratories to get creative with some of their offerings.
"There are indications and contraindications," he says, "but there is also room to really do some interesting things."
Exploring the potential of innovative technologies such as this is, after all, one of the things Zimmermann enjoys most about dentistry and why he chose academia.
"It is exciting," he says, "to be part of a revolution in the way we are making dentures."
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