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The future of digital dental technology

Matthew Garnett, owner and MD of Merseyside-based orthodontic dental laboratory, Thermadent Ltd, has something to say about the future of digital dental technology.

"Let's get digital..."

Matthew has 25 years experience in dental technology, beginning as an apprentice in 1990. he went on to Liverpool Community College where he qualified in 1996 with distinctions and won the "Student of the Year Award for Excellence" in dental technology. His passion for perfection remains undimmed and he believes we must never rest on our laurels.

Before launching Thermadent in 2011 he worked in a number of laboratories right across the North West as an orthodontic technician, gathering valuable experience in all aspects of the craft. He took a lot of pride in his work and he made every appliance to the best of his ability, preparing each one as if it was for one of his own children. This level of commitment runs through the work of every member of the Thermadent team and is at the core of their success, that and their willingness to invest in the best, cutting edge technology.

Thanks to strong client recommendations our client list increased rapidly over the first few months after opening. As a result the Thermadent team had to move to bigger and better premises and increase staff levels. Now, as an established and well known orthodontic laboratory, it employs 10 staff and have plans to expand to new premises within the near future.

Since February 2014, NHS Dental Services has been requesting that the submissions of pre-treatment and post-treatment study models be submitted digitally. In a nutshell this means that instead of submitting the actual plaster models for your completed cases, you now need to submit digital scan files instead.

Because of this Matthew felt he needed to invest in a digital scanner to ensure he could service all his clients’ needs and he can now convert all plaster study models to 3D digital models, which makes a lot of sense for many orthodontic practices. As any technician knows all too well, plaster study models are bulky and can be difficult to store. They can also become mislaid and broken, and sometimes, if stored in damp environments, they can even become mouldy and unusable. It is old technology and Matthew felt it was time for change.

Using 3D digital study models means there’s no longer any need to store the physical study models − and he no longer need to worry about plaster model disposal, which can be costly and time expensive. What’s more, thanks to new GDC regulations, every orthodontic practice now has to keep a record of each patient’s tooth movement indefinitely. To store each patient’s physical plaster study models would quickly become an impossibility. Think of the cost for one thing, that and the fact that over a period of time, plaster study models will begin to decompose. With digital study models all you need is a safe, secure place to store the CD’s that contain the files.

Why choose an Objet30 OrthoDesk 3D printer?
Once we had the scanner in place Matthew thought it would make sense to move into the clear aligners sector because he was halfway there already. However, this move would mean he would now have to invest in a 3D digital printer. Thinking things through he realised that any investments in digital technology now will help drive Thermadent’s success in the very near future. His aim has been to not only provide clients with a fully digital service regarding study models, but also to create a product to rival the leading clear aligner manufacturers. He studied the 3D print market and plumped for an Objet30 OrthoDesk printer.

Stratasys Reseller in the UK helped Matthew decide which 3D printer was best for his needs thanks to their informed and impartial advice. Their help with installation and integration of the new machine with his existing equipment meant he could get on with the training they provided straight away, which reduced set-up time for the new Objet30 to an absolute minimum. They provided a first-class service all round.

Thanks to the precise tolerances and extreme accuracy provided by the Objet30 printer (28 microns detail, much better than other leading printers) our aligners are more accurate and provide a much better fit. Using the printer in-house also reduces lead times significantly. There is also a greatly reduced environmental impact compared to traditional and alternative CAD/CAM methods because the printing process produces a lot less waste.

The Objet30 is the first 3D printer of its kind, combining supreme accuracy with a surprisingly small footprint. It is easy to use, and includes specialized dental printing materials in convenient sealed cartridges. Using this new desktop model, and thanks to its patented PolyJet 3D printing technology, the Thermadent team can fabricate orthodontic appliances, delivery and positioning trays, models for clear aligners, retainers and surgical guides − with predictably consistent, high quality outcomes every time.

The Objet30 has been specifically designed for small to medium-sized orthodontic dental labs like Thermadent. It helps Matthew and his team to digitize their workflow from digital file to model, accelerate their production times and increase production capacity cleanly and efficiently. And there’s more. Now they enjoy a digital workflow we are able to convert chairside oral scans into precisely accurate 3D printed models. However, what this actually means to the work process is just one facet of the overall, digital breakthrough the Objet30 provides to both the lab and its customers.

Profits and savings
Matthew refers to a recent case study in which a practitioner took a patient’s normal alginate impression, and then made a chairside intraoral digital scan creating an STL file. Both were sent to their usual laboratory where the alginate impression was cast using Crystacal plaster (said to be the best, most accurate in its class). The digital STL file was printed using an OrthoDesk 3D printer. The results were astounding. The chairside digital scan, once converted into a 3D printed model, was the more accurate of the two by far.

If practitioners were to take a good look at their annual costs, including traditional lab bills, they would soon realise that investing in a chairside, intra-oral scanner and working with a fully functioning digital laboratory would have a massive impact on improving overall profits. And say goodbye to expensive recalls. Currently, how often does your lab phone to reappoint a patient because of a distorted impression? Consider that and then add in the fact that complaints regarding dental devices are on the increase. Taking the possibility of a distorted impression/recall/complaint out of the equation by going digital becomes a no-brainer. It makes economic sense and adds to quality control, win, win.

"We talk about the technology of the future, but thanks to continuous advances in CAD/CAM the future is here, now. Imagine the modern digital pathway leading from chairside scan to fast, accurate, 3D printed model. Private dental clients can have their intra-oral scans stored digitally. These scans can be taken quickly and cleanly then emailed direct to the lab. There’s no chance for distortions, mistakes, accidents or breakages. At Thermadent we can print a very accurate representation of the patient’s oral anatomy and also keep it on a digital file, plus the sheer speed of 3D printing means we can get to work straight away.

Fast, clean and accurate, the digital pathway means the patient spends less time in the chair and there’s less time spent waiting for the appliance afterwards. The results fit better, there are reduced material and staff costs and patient consultations are quicker and more animated. Going digital is surely the only route for affordable dental technology, and I see it as a must for all forward-thinking dental practitioners."....Matthew Garnett, MD Thermadent Ltd.

Stratasys 3D Printers including the Objet30 Orthodesk are available in Australia and New Zealand from Objective3D, a complete 3D Printing Solutions provider. From 3D Printers, 3D Parts, 3D Scanners including Printer Maintenance services and consumables for Stratasys 3D printers, Objective3D is the largest distributor of Stratasys 3D Printers across Australia and New Zealand, and were recently awarded the Stratasys Customer Satisfaction and Support Award for 2013 for the Asia Pacific region. 

Objective3D is also a total solutions provider of 3D printing and custom manufacturing through the the largest additive manufacturing centre in the southern hemisphere - Objective3D Advanced Manufacturing Centre, powered by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing with 16 commercial grade machines provides the widest range of 3D printing technologies and materials to enable a broad range of specialist solutions.

For more details, visit or call 03-9785 2333 (AUS)  09-801 0380 (NZ)

Article Source: Dental Review news

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