What strategies are available to dental teams when it comes to communicating with laboratories?
As I am also a trained dental technician, I always think from both perspectives. Appropriate strategies for cooperation within the restorative team and, especially, strategies for cooperation with the patientwere developed early on. Those who strive for success in their dental treatment need an intensive exchange of information. This is where today’s digital possibilities play into our hands on various levels. Through technologies such as 3D facial scanners, intra-oral scanners, transfer forks, digital recording of dynamic occlusion and the combination of STL files with Digital Imaging and Communications data, digitalization brings the patient to the dental laboratory with 24/7 availability. The strategies are of course highly dependent on the digital equipment available to the partners and can vary accordingly. The cooperation on an analogue level is now increasingly substituted by digital possibilities. This increases predictability and, in some cases, such as in implant prostheses or total prostheses, can make certain treatment sessions superfluous. In my lecture, I showed that digital technologies have very clear “killer applications” compared with the analogue approach. As members of the treatment team always have access to the same wealth of information, planning is much more precise, and misunderstandings as well as mistakes are avoided, to the benefit of the patient.
What are some of the challenges and advantages associated with the results of digitized communication with laboratories?
The weak point lies more in the interfaces and in the further processing of the acquired data in the software. The data compatibility of different systems in the laboratory and practice is one of the greatest challenges for me; however, this can certainly be mastered. Ultimately, the advantages of digital technologies outweigh the disadvantages. These advantages include more precise and more efficient reporting, analysis and diagnosis, which will be supported by artificial intelligence in the future. This facilitates treatment planning with accurate selection of the restoration material, virtual try-ins and real clinical “test drives” with direct communication both within the restorative team and with the patient. For open questions and multidisciplinary collaboration, online expert platforms would be desirable in order to produce synergistic results.
We often hear that digitalization can lead to improvement in dentistry. What does this mean to you?
Apart from the already mentioned advantages of better information exchange and communication, digitalization results in safer planning, the use of higher quality standardized manufactured materials with higher biocompatibility, better precision (such as with milled polymers), better time-saving and better reproducibility. The new manufacturing possibilities have already brought us many interesting new classes of materials that are otherwise not available in the analogue world. Digital patient records make important data available much faster. We live in a high-performance culture today, and time has become a very precious commodity. As already mentioned, there are new digital possibilities in communication that will reduce analogue contact times with patients. This is to be welcomed against the background of the pandemic, but in the longer term, we must not displace empathy from our treatment concept.