From a basement start-up to an international acting company: the story of Dental Direkt is like from a storybook. CAD/CAM was still in its infancy when the company got its start more than 20 years ago. In our December issue, we spoke with Uwe Greitens, a member of the management team, about the company's growth and how it reflects the revolution in dental technology. The second part of our interview looks at the profession of the dental technician and what will change (or not) when it comes to dental materials.
dl: What will the future of dentistry look like? And the profession of the dental technician?
Uwe Greitens: In general, we are convinced that even in the digital age, dental technicians and, in particular, a solid and high-quality apprenticeship will not become obsolete. Digital skills should, however, be provided more intensively during the apprenticeship in order to prepare young people well for today's professional world. Those who practice their profession with passion and creativity will also have opportunities in the digital environment. As in the past, there were specialized professionals in the various departments of a laboratory; this will continue to be the case in the future. In our point of view it is important to understand that we can all help to shape the future of the dental technology profession. Anyone who knows how to take advantage of the new opportunities for the benefit of their patients and thus for their business don’t have to worry, that the future will make them obsolete. Each individual operation will have to decide how to position themselves digitally while preserving their individuality. The beauty of our industry is that it's all about patient satisfaction and their health. As a result, dental technology bears a great responsibility. But it's also about a new level of efficiency. With a mix of CAD/CAM in-house and the openness to join up with manufacturing networks, many businesses are already becoming more competitive. This is especially true internationally, as the German trades have been facing for quite some time.
dl: With the flood of current innovations, however, it is difficult to assess what makes sense and will be sustainable in one's own laboratory...
Uwe Greitens: Yes, that's true. The innovation cycles for software, hardware, and materials are speeding up as in most technology-driven industries. This implicates changes in investment planning compared to analogue times. In our opinion, it is a mistake, as an individual company, trying to implement every innovation by investing in in-house production. As in other highly digitized areas, specialists are developing as manufacturers or service providers who can take over partial manufacturing. To take advantage of this requires a certain openness in the company's culture - but it can pay off in the end. The laboratory already has a lot of control over the quality, when the CAD area is in their own authority. By outsourcing special manufacturing techniques, which cannot be covered in your own laboratory or that ensure better quality in industrially monitored production, you can gain experience. The range of offers can remain wide. It's important to work with open systems so that different service providers can be tested. If the amount of outsourced products has become so large that an in-house production would be profitable, laboratories can then decide to invest in the right technology for their own operations based on their experience.
Uwe Greitens: “Dental laboratories, who are following the path of digitization together with their dentists, do not have to worry that their craftsmanship being replaced by chairside production.”
dl: How important is perfect teamwork in the digital dental world?
Uwe Greitens: Good dentures have always been created when dentists and dental technicians form a good team. Digital techniques such as intraoral scanning and combining the obtained 3-D data with other digital sources, provide the best conditions for building an even better team. The possibility to have detailed, image-based communication about the individual patient has never been so good. Dental laboratories, who are following the path of digitization together with their dentists, do not have to worry that their craftsmanship being replaced by chairside production. Digital laboratories should increasingly understand themselves as innovation partners for dentists. Anyone who is a valuable partner from taking the digital impression to 3-D planning and the integration of the dentures will be difficult to replace. Services in the form of training courses and services, as well as a wide selection of materials for CAD/CAM implementation of the ideal solution in various price categories, offer added value and relief for the practitioner. In this way specialists can focus on their areas of expertise and provide high-quality care for every budget.
dl: What trends do you see in material development: what's coming and what will still be there in the near future?
Uwe Greitens: As a developer and manufacturer of zirconium oxide, we're going to dare to say that this material will remain. Zirconium oxide is no longer the material today as it was five years ago. The expansion of the new, highly translucent types has expanded the fields of application, especially for monolithic restorations. In less heavily regulated markets such as the US, more than 55% of CAD laboratory design is already made fully monolithic. More than 70% of these are made from zirconium oxide. Better and new industrial pre-colors provide vivid colors and high color reproducibility. For oxide ceramics, 3-D printing is currently not seen as an adequate substitute for milling from blanks.
For zirconium oxide there are no quality, process, or time advantages at the current state of development. However, 3-D printing will play a bigger role in dental technology for other materials. But, especially in printed medical devices, which are intended for long-term use in the oral cavity, the biocompatibility should be scrutinized carefully.
The interview was conducted by Barbara Schuster