Patrick Thurm says digital dentistry is “not revolution – it's reality”
Patrick Thurm is Henry Schein Dental’s Vice President of Technology, Global Prosthetic Solutions. He spoke exclusively with Dental Review during the company’s Digital Symposium at the prestigious Park Plaza London Riverbank Hotel, attended by over 450 delegates.
The UK is lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to digital dentistry. For example, I estimate the penetration of digital dental workflow in the UK is mid-high single digits while in Germany the number is closer to around 20%. But Britain is waking up to the benefits of digital dentistry – at present largely in the private sector and away from major corporates – and that is because the profession is putting care for patients ahead of their reluctance to invest.
Modern dental practice accepts patients as healthcare clients, clients who want to be engaged and informed about their oral health and treatment. Digital technology is an outstanding part of that engagement process. Using an intraoral scanner, such as 3Shape Trios or Dentsply Sirona CEREC Omnicam, as a diagnostic tool allows the patient to see what the clinician sees, clearly displayed on a dedicated screen or laptop.
The intraoral scan has two benefits: Dental professionals can use it to discuss treatment planning with their patient and get agreement before proceeding, manage expectations and demonstrate desired outcomes, while also creating a precision digital impression file for the lab. This reduces chair time and obviates the need for traditional impression taking, it also negates the time-consuming need for recalls due to inaccurate conventional impressions.
Design software used in smile design and treatment planning is well-established and intuitive to use. It clearly shows how treatment will take the patient’s dentition from its current state to a preferred condition. The latest technology even has apps downloadable to the patient’s phone, so they can follow their treatment’s progress and show what’s happening to friends and family.
Patients driving change
The classical treatment model of a patient sitting in the surgery listening to a dental professional tell them what is going to happen is outmoded and must change. Thanks to the internet, people are much more health aware than before. They want to feel involved in their treatment and they want to understand what their healthcare provider is doing, and why.
Patients are driving change by choosing dental surgeries where they enjoy the best journey towards an optimum healthcare outcome. They are happy to talk about their experiences, positively compare new techniques with old ones, and they have more confidence in the outcome. Digital dentistry is a proven practice builder, and if used correctly it provides a rapid ROI and profit.
New technology also puts the patient at the heart of the dental team where they belong – and helps educate them about the best home hygiene regime. A person who understands the importance of good oral hygiene is also the best for planning smile design and elective surgery, including orthodontics. A healthy mouth promises the most aesthetically pleasing outcomes.
Using a virtual model of the patient’s teeth, the dental professional can take the guesswork out of orthodontic bracket placements. By 3D printing a resin model of the patient’s dentition, the lab can vacuum form an exquisitely accurate bonding tray. With that, the dentist can place orthodontic brackets with exact precision, and then position them on the teeth with pin-point precision.
There are no downsides to digital technology. Some still talk about the digital dental revolution as if it is something on the horizon, it is not, it is here, now, and it is improving the patient experience beyond recognition. In the surgery, digital provides a communication tool, a diagnostic tool, and a design tool, and, thanks to computer aided machining (CAM) the workflow in the lab is faster and much more accurate than with conventional methods.
Understanding digital dental concepts
Dental professionals need a partner who can help them understand the broader concepts of digital technology, and how to get the most from their investment. Henry Schein Dental has a team of technical experts on hand, online, on the telephone and on the premises, all of whom are dedicated to integrating the new technology with existing workflow while causing minimum disruption.
No-one wants to suffer downtime after investing good money in new technology. If there is a problem, we want it fixed, and we want it fixed right now. Our technicians are on the case instantly, either on the premises or remotely connecting to the device to solve any problems before they can cause a crisis.
Any dental professional is only as good as the team around them, and at the end of the day, a crown either fits and is comfortable or it is not. Digital means that the nurse can be taking the intraoral scan while the clinician discusses treatment with the patient, with greater confidence in the correct fit of the crown, bridge or veneer. Greater precision also requires less invasive preparation, saving more of the natural tooth.
Digital is the natural home for implant planning and design. Every implant can be placed using a 3D printed surgical guide, delivered to the exact position and depth required for greatest comfort and durability. In a single package digital provides: design – planning – guided placement – implant – customised healing abutment – temporary restoration. The patient walks out with an intact smile in a single day, and an implant ready for load.
Thanks to its global position, Henry Schein Dental is able to put the latest developments and the best technology from many parts of the world under the microscope and analyse the most interesting (and profitable) trends. The umbrella of digital embraces and connects every aspect of dentistry, from the simplest to the most complex, and we only select what works best and integrates well
Discovering how digital works and what it can do in practice or the lab is essential for maximising your return on investment, and currently in the UK most digital training is post-graduate. To meet that need, every week Henry Schein Dental offers training sessions, provides mentors, and runs courses for the entire dental team.
We believe it is not enough to merely sell boxes of equipment to our clients, every innovation must be made to work for the user. We describe ourselves as the solutions company for health care professionals powered by a network of people and technology.; this means that we help dental professionals understand digital better to make the dental workplace a better place to be.