Digital Denture – the next big thing? An insight into everyday practice with Michael Wiernek
There is hardly an area of life that has not yet been affected by far-reaching technical change in recent years: Digitalization is on everybody’s mind and, of course, dentists and dental technicians and their day-to-day practice have not been left untouched.
This also holds true for digital dentures and presents both opportunities and challenges. We talked to Michael Wiernek, a denturist from Denmark with more than 20 years of experience and he gave us insight into his daily work and experience with digital dentures.
Michael Wiernek, the first person in Scandinavia to work completely with digital dentures.
A personal yet holistic view of digital dentures
According to Wiernek, the process of digitalization in dentistry can and will pick up speed significantly as more and more interest in digital treatment processes is shown by dentists.
"Going digital allows me to improve all aspects of the patient treatment: My aim is to offer my patients the highest quality of products possible and to guarantee a pleasant, comfortable treatment procedure. An additional bonus is that the number of follow-up treatments drops significantly, as the products are more accurate than ever before."
Digitalization has significantly reduced the steps as well as the time involved, and therefore offers clients treatments that are state of the art and provide superior customer satisfaction. Wiernek himself states that a main argument for using digital dentures is their high manufacturing quality and precision.
"In the past, when relying on analog treatments you just hoped that the prosthesis would fit when it was ready. Today, I don't have to hope anymore, since I know that it's going to be perfect! And it's like that every day. I can predict that every denture will fit. Thanks to digital dentures, I always end up delivering the best quality, state-of-the-art treatments and consequently satisfying my customers entirely."
Five questions for Michael Wiernek, digital denturist through and through
Do you only work digitally or do you also manufacture conventional dentures?
We work only digitally; never with conventional dentures. I consider us to be an almost completely digital laboratory. My colleagues and I were one of the first dental technician teams in Scandinavia to use digital dentures. As a result, we have created a laboratory that almost entirely eliminates the need for gypsum for producing dentures. With the digital denture method, we have reduced 10 hours of lab work to approximately 1.5 hours. At the beginning, we couldn't believe it ourselves, but it’s true.
Michael Wiernek designing an Ivotion denture in the 3Shape Dental System
Did you go through a big learning process for digital manufacturing or was it easy and intuitive for you?
For me, going digital has been a unique yet tough journey, which I started in March 2018. The following 6 months involved truly hard work because no one (in Denmark) knew how to do it. After the summer of 2018, I had acquired a lot of know-how, but still I couldn’t do everything I wanted to. So, I went outside Denmark (US, Holland and Germany) to network and exchange knowledge with experts in the field. It took me many evenings and nights trying to figure things out at home, but after a year I fully committed to it and it paid off. I know almost everything about digital dentures now and even when I don't, I always find a way to make it work.
"In 2018, my colleagues told me, Michael, you're crazy. What are you doing? It will be the end of your business if you do everything with a digital denture system. I told them to be patient, to wait and see. Now I can tell them that digital dentures help you to improve patient care, treatment quality and efficiency, and this is the truth."
What convinced you to manufacture your dentures with Ivotion and what difference do you see compared with the way in which conventional dentures are fabricated?
For me, the most convincing argument was the fact that with Ivotion you have a full denture plate in one, which no one else is able to provide. In addition, speed is an enormous advantage, since you don't have to glue the denture base and teeth together. The biggest difference between a conventional denture and a digital denture, in my opinion, is that I can significantly reduce patient visits by working with the Ivotion Denture System. We can cut them down from 5–6 visits to 2–3 visits per denture, and we're fully done with satisfied and smiling patients.
"When we created the first denture with Ivotion, I had this unique moment: I couldn't believe it, but we had a full denture in about an hour and a half. Not only did it fit perfectly, but it also had great esthetic appeal for the patient. I was overwhelmed – as this was a real breakthrough for the industry."
Upper and lower jaw dentures milled in a PrograMill PM7
Now for one of the most important questions: What kind of feedback have you received from your patients?
The feedback is great because patients only have to come for one or two appointments before the denture fits. The patients are much more satisfied than in the past. They have also become much more relaxed, since I can assure them that the result will fit them perfectly. With Ivotion, they no longer have the same pain level as with the conventional method, since it is not only much better and faster, but also fits them perfectly. In addition, the reproducibility of the created prosthesis is simple and straightforward. Digital dentures are an absolute win from the patient's point of view.
Since he started working with the Ivotion Denture System, Michael Wierneks patients are more satisfied than ever before.
What about the investment? Did you invest directly in the entire system or did you do it in stages? You also purchased a PrograMill PM7. How did you feel when you made the decision to purchase it and how would you evaluate the situation today?
In the beginning, I started by using the scanner and the 3Shape dental system. At a very early stage, I also decided to only implement and follow the respective Ivoclar Digital Denture workflow and take it step by step. So, seven months later I made the next move and got the lab scanner and then the 3D printer.
With regard to the PrograMill PM7, I thought about it for two years, because of the high investment amount. However, I knew I couldn't resist due to the fact that the PM7 is a very capacious mill for high productivity. If I'm investing in something new, I'm going to go with the best. I knew that in the long run I would invest in the PM7 anyway, knowing that if I wanted to hire more denturists or increase my production, the PM7 would be the right one. I have never regretted it, as for me it is the best available machine. And it has paid off.
Michael Wiernek and his PrograMill PM7
"If you ask me, if I can recommend the Ivotion system, my answer is clear: Always. And I do recommend it to my colleagues all the time. Of course, it is an expensive system to invest in, but if you want to do high-end dentures, then the only way is to go digital. But it is not only about the quality: I would say if you do not invest in digital dentures now, you may have to close your business in the future."
From Wiernek´s point of view, it will become normal for dentists to work with digital dentures, and patients will also increasingly ask for them in the future. Digital dentures will help you to create a positive personal relationship with your patients. They will be enthusiastic about the method, as they will be even more involved in the process and able to follow the procedure themselves. Going digital will ensure und secure your dental business in the near and distant future.
About Michael Wiernek
Michael Wiernek is 46 years old, from Aarhus, Denmark and he is a denturist with over 22 years of work experience. He is the CEO and founder of Tandprotetikeren Aarhus and he currently employs 6 people in his company. He is the first person in Scandinavia to work completely with digital dentures.
To improve the digital denture workflow Wiernek works in collaboration with 3Shape and Ivoclar Vivadent. He also educates lab technicians and denturists to go digital in Scandinavia.