Carbon and Dentsply Sirona Continue to Help Denture Laboratories Thrive
The introduction of Dentsply Sirona’s Lucitone Digital Print (LDP) Denture workflow for Carbon printers in September 2019 was met with significant excitement in the dental laboratory industry. Finally, a 3D-printable denture with exceptional strength and esthetics had arrived. Since its launch, LDP has lived up to—and perhaps surpassed—those lofty expectations.
“The impact has been absolutely incredible,” says Jamie Stover, CDT, Senior Manager of Dental Lab Applications for Carbon. “In a relatively short amount of time, more than 100 laboratories have undergone the training and certification process to fabricate LDP dentures. Denturists have embraced LDP as well. We have seen this application continue to grow even during and since the COVID shutdown.”
Milled dentures and earlier-generation printed dentures have been on the market for several years, but LDP has taken digital dentures to another level.
“The advantages that LDP offers in terms of production savings, material strength, and esthetics make this the first time in our industry’s history that a denture of this caliber can be produced using an additive process,” says Stover, who was previously Chief Operating Officer of Ziemek Laboratories and has been a dental laboratory technician for more than 21 years. “Milling can produce a strong, esthetic denture, but it lacks production efficiency. Occupying a mill for several hours to produce one denture arch is not practical for many laboratories that can instead use their mills to produce full-contour zirconia crowns much more efficiently. First-generation denture resins allow you to produce the dentures much faster, but they lack the strength and esthetics of traditional acrylic dentures. LDP, however, offers the strength and esthetics of a traditionally fabricated denture, combined with massive labor reduction and many other benefits. Someone who has not seen LDP may believe that printed dentures are all the same, but that could not be further from the truth.”
One of the esthetic benefits of Lucitone, Stover says, is the utilization of IPN 3D™ Digital Denture Teeth, inspired by Dentsply Sirona’s popular Portrait IPN line of premium denture teeth.
“Gradient PMMA or printed teeth have limitations in strength and esthetics,” Stover says. “The carded tooth is esthetically superior and extremely strong. Additionally, for users of the traditional Lucitone and IPN products from Dentsply Sirona, this combination offers a level of comfort. Laboratories and clinicians familiar with the shades and esthetics provided by Lucitone 199 traditional base acrylic and Portrait IPN teeth can expect very comparable outcomes with LDP.”
While the outcomes are comparable, the efficiency of the process is dramatically different. Stover, who consults with laboratories and dentists on streamlining production with digital workflows and implementing strategies for business growth and utilization of new applications, says 65% less labor is required for the LDP/Carbon process than for analog denture fabrication.
“Traditionally fabricating dentures is a very labor-intensive and time-consuming process that requires skilled removable technicians to spend many hours at the bench with hands-on processes,” he says. “The LDP workflow with Carbon printers lowers the cost of goods sold per denture dramatically, and the workflow efficiency and throughput create a really impressive impact in the laboratory. You can print up to eight denture bases in a little more than two hours on the Carbon M2 printer. Even for very busy, high-volume Carbon laboratories, they have the bandwidth in their production day to utilize the printer for various other applications, such as night guards and models.”
Stover also notes that the reduced labor requirements are particularly important considering the scarcity of trained and skilled removable technicians in the profession today.
“Transitioning skilled removable technicians from those hands-on, labor-intensive roles in production at the bench into roles as digital denture designers, technical consultants for dental clients, and trainers/educators for less experienced technicians in your laboratory can help mitigate the staggering shortage of removable technicians that this industry is facing,” Stover says. “You can grow and scale a business and be able to internally train a workforce for the future. Scalability is something you just cannot do in the analog world.”
Of course, Carbon’s team approach to customer service helps as well. Adding a Carbon printer means adding new contributors to your team. Beyond typical troubleshooting services, the Carbon team offers workflow management tips, proactive maintenance based on live monitoring of the machines, and more. They analyze each laboratory’s business model and offer organizational details to help maximize ROI, and the maintenance helps contribute to 99% uptime for the printers, minimizing costly workflow disruptions.
“Carbon does not believe in the printer-in-a-box approach,” Stover says. “The Carbon team approach to making sure our laboratories are running at peak production efficiency is crucial. It boils down to the fact that our customer’s success is our success. Customer support, along with a collaborative and consultative approach, is at the center of everything we do and makes us such a strong partner.”
One new solution on the horizon from the Carbon team is a software update that will provide automatic nesting, orientation, and supports for LDP dentures.
“We are really excited because this allows laboratories to handle pre-processing tasks, such as nesting the denture bases, much faster,” Stover says. “We are estimating a savings of 15 to 20 minutes per build.”
Another new offering from Carbon is a temporary crown and bridge material developed in partnership with Dentca. Available in seven shades, including bleach, it is indicated for single unit temporaries and up to 3-unit bridges.
“This is another tool in the toolbox that will allow Carbon users to produce crowns for implants and other cases very quickly and for much less cost per unit,” Stover says.
With these ongoing innovations and the team approach, Carbon plans to continue helping laboratories thrive with digital dentures and more.
“We are not simply a 3D printer company,” Stover says. “We are a hardware, software, materials, and solutions provider, and we are a partner. Carbon provides what we believe to be the world’s best additive production solution for not just dental applications, but for many industries, and we understand that for our partner laboratories to be successful, we need to provide exceptional support at the intersection of the technology, the materials, and the technician.”