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Digital workflow for dental offices and laboratories—where are we now?

Niels Plate (left), group vice president of digital devices and equipment at Dentsply Sirona, spoke with Dental Tribune International at IDS 2023. (Image: Dentsply Sirona)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Thu. 27. April 2023


During IDS 2023, Dental Tribune International talked to Niels Plate, group vice president of digital devices and equipment at Dentsply Sirona, about the present and the future of digital technologies in dentistry.

Why should dental professionals go digital—and why would you recommend it?
I think that many dental professionals are already digital to some extent, whether they know it or not, because often they have very simple intra-oral cameras, which just take photos of the teeth, integrated into their treatment centres that take digital images. Many dental professionals have digital radiographic units too, and now many dentists also have 3D scanners, which are all digital.

Why should they go digital? Generally, this improves the treatment outcome and increases the efficiency of the practice. At the moment, in dentistry particularly, but also in many other industries, the key bottleneck is labour: we don’t have enough dentists or assistants or receptionists or lab technicians. So all over the industry, there is a severe shortage of qualified people. Digital helps people to become more efficient, to produce reproducible results and to get better clinical outcomes, but also to focus on the core of the job, and this means the patient and the clinical result.

Dentsply Sirona presented interactive events, exciting digital experiences and live demonstrations at IDS. (Image: Koelnmesse)

I can give one very simple example, the documentation of our new Primeprint Solution. It automatically documents each print and allows the dentist to simplify data storage in one PDF file. All necessary data can be summarised in one PDF file, which the dentist can then use to fulfil his legal obligations, eliminating the need to take any notes, to have any records and to do anything manually; all the work is done automatically. This is exactly what I mean. This is work which is a waste of qualified time for the dentist or assistant. This is where we can help.

What are the latest digital devices and equipment Dentsply Sirona is showcasing at IDS 2023?
Dentsply Sirona is showcasing many new products at IDS, but let’s go through them in the sequence they were introduced. The first one is Axano. It’s a dental chair, but of course, it’s much, much more, because it is built to ideally support the individual way of working of each dental professional. What does that mean? It means that as a dentist you can use three settings, but you can basically individualise the whole workflow according to your requirements, working style, training and working preferences. This helps to save time. By presetting the dental chair regarding how you do an endodontic treatment or how you do a restoration, you don’t need to set the value each time, allowing you to work fluently without taking your hands off the patient because all the functions of the dental chair can be controlled by foot. This allows you to switch smoothly through your preset menus. Of course, Axano has many other excellent features, like a massage function for the patient, but the most important is that it combines an efficient workflow with ergonomics.

The next product Dentsply Sirona is showcasing at IDS is the Primeprint 3D-printing system. This is our first 3D printer, and it was very important for us to have a fully digitalised workflow offering a complete solution for the dentist.

Primeprint Solution runs mostly automatically, employing a robotic arm that handles the printed object. It uses the patented cartridge system to keep the printed object enclosed so that no chemical fumes reach the user. The user then switches over to the post-processing unit by pressing a button, and that again proceeds fully enclosed and completely automated, producing the final washed object. Primeprint Solution is designed for all the common dental applications, which start with models, then also night guards, splints, surgical guides, temporary restorations and mock-ups.

But there is another product I’d like to mention, Primescan Connect, which is a version of Primescan, our high-performing intra-oral scanner now available in a laptop configuration. The laptop version was requested by many markets. This feature makes the workflow easier and more ergonomic.

Primeprint Solution and Primescan Connect are connected to DS Core, our cloud-based solution that provides up to 15 TB of cloud storage. Of course, DS Core can connect all services and data, including radiographs, clinical photographs and case files, and dentists can share all the data with some clicks or access it from wherever they are. This data can be safely shared with partners, with labs and with the patient. In the future, DS Core will provide further solutions, because the possibilities of its use will continue to evolve.

Here at Dentsply Sirona’s IDS booth all presented devices are connected to DS Core.

Trade show attendees experienced the digital universe at Dentsply Sirona’s booth. (Image: © Koelnmesse)

Is Primeprint Solution designed exclusively for dental offices, or can it also be used in dental labs?
Our first intention with Primeprint was to have a chairside solution, but it is designed for both dentists and dental technicians, depending on the size and set-up of the dental lab. For a very big lab, then I would say that a more industrial type of product would be needed, but for the typical family-owned dental lab in Germany, Primeprint is a very good solution. The biggest advantage of Primeprint is that it is fully automatised, so it can run the entire printing process, including post-processing, and safely deliver the final printed product, providing a chairside solution. This device meets so many high standards that you could even put it in your living room.

What role does education play in transitioning dentistry to digital, and how is Dentsply Sirona fulfilling this role?
Education is very important to Dentsply Sirona and I think we have all learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that we can also digitalise education a little bit more. Dentsply Sirona offers education programmes through the Dentsply Sirona Academy. In our many international education centres around the world, the largest being in Charlotte in North Carolina in the US and in Bensheim in Germany, we provide the knowledge, skills and inspiration. Among the clinical educational material available on our academy platform, we have just published on-demand curricula.

We also offer more and more digital content on various platforms, like YouTube, where dental practitioners can get quick training on subjects of interest, especially on topics related to digital, or when they just want to get instructions on how to do something, how to maintain a device or how to use certain functions. All this information is available online.

I believe that this is the way forward, because that is exactly how we behave in our non-professional lives. When I needed to change the battery in my car key, what did I do? I opened YouTube and searched for a video on how to do that. I didn’t open the instruction manual; I found the information online.

Dental professionals also search for information in this way, and Dentsply Sirona is ready to provide them with the answers they are looking for where they are looking for it. Apart from that, we are putting a huge focus on user experience.

The use of digital technology is a growing trend. What do you think the next five to ten years will bring in terms of new products or workflows?
Yes, I think that in the coming years the use of digital technology will still be a growing trend.

What we are now seeing is that digitalisation is moving quicker and quicker, producing a huge amount of data, and this will make it mandatory to move things into the cloud, same as we saw with office software or in many other industries. Moving to the cloud will give us not only unlimited storage but also unlimited computing power, which then, of course, will enable things like artificial intelligence in support of the dentist. I would expect then bigger breakthroughs in diagnostics to help the dentist to do an initial diagnosis and create a treatment plan to solve the problem identified.

I think that design of dental restorations will be much more automised and that these services which are still done manually will become more and more generic. This biogeneric technology is already known to CEREC users, but will evolve and become define a new standard way of working. Today, you can imagine that automation will move further and further and reduce the need for the dentist to amend the final design, making results reproducible.

I believe that another important area is outcome simulation. A very important part of dentists’ work is communicating with their patients about the outcome of the treatment planned. We can see that very well at the moment for aligner treatments. A number of companies offer an outcome simulator, which shows patients how their teeth will look after aligner treatment. Of course, this has to be transferred to other treatments to enable dentists to show patients’ their smiles after treatment and give them a treatment choice.

The last area I would like to mention is equipment efficiency to keep everything well maintained and to increase uptime and reduce downtime. Treatment management and remote servicing are other areas which we are actively working on. We can see the first results in DC Core already today, and this will reduce service costs significantly. We will increase the number of cases for which we can fix any issue remotely, without sending a service engineer to the dental practice, which means that the dentist can continue working. We will enable bigger structures, like dental service organisations, to manage their fleet and make sure that all their facilities are running and service their dentists well.

That is in a nutshell what I expect, but of course, there is much more. But there is also a natural limit to what can be done in a certain amount of time.

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