[Penn Dental Medicine News] Embracing digital dentistry

The School of Dental Medicine is increasing and integrating its digital capabilities, thereby providing more training options for students, the ability to undertake research, and the capability to give seamless and state-of-the-art patient care.

Those who will serve as dentists’ leaders in the years to come deserve an education that prepares them for the advanced procedures and technologies that will be taking the industry by storm. From there, add the huge gains in digital dentistry that has evolved with new advancements, and that’s where the School of Dental Medicine’s Digital Innovation Initiative comes in, which is targeted at complete integration of all the newest digital dental technology at the various stages of education and patient care.

The school recently completed two additional rooms on the basement level of its Thomas Evans Building. One of the areas serves as a research and development laboratory for the digital dentistry and workflow skills that are relevant throughout the whole school. A new Digital Design and Milling Center, coupled with new staff and curriculum modifications, enables the training of students, conducting research, and offering continuing education. The delivery of seamless and cutting-edge patient care is also made possible by the new Digital Design and Milling Center, as well as new personnel and curriculum modifications.

“There are many different kinds of digital technologies in use that, when used together, serve to bring about successful application and results in patient care and education, and that is our goal,” says Markus Blatz, professor and chair of preventive and restorative sciences and assistant dean for digital innovation and professional development. Through his work with the school’s Digital Innovation Initiative, Blatz has championed and led the initiative.

It is now usual to use optical scanners to scan teeth and to use digital technology to manufacture dental restorations. “At this point, we have other tools like as electronic health records, and facial recognition technology, that aid in the diagnosing process, in creating a treatment plan, and in the restoration design process,” he concludes. There is a significant amount of information connecting everything together, which makes it much simpler to involve dental specialty and even artificial intelligence systems in the treatment planning process. I believe one of the great benefits of digital dentistry is that it is more accessible for the general public.

Ever since joining the Penn Dental Medicine faculty in 2006, Blatz has devoted himself to making digital technology a key component of the school’s operations in many areas, especially his fields of expertise: materials science, prosthodontics, and esthetic dentistry. This recruitment drive mostly relied on bringing in top-notch academic members. Michael Bergler, who had educated in Germany, began his employment at the school in 2008, bringing with him years of study and expertise as a master dental technician, who has both familiarity with conventional laboratory procedures and also has training in computer assisted design and computer assisted manufacturing (CAD/CAM). My life philosophy is that you may go against the grain and choose to remain detached from the technologies. Alternatively, you may commit yourself to being an expert in these things, learning as much as you can. Bergler describes the way he proceeded as follows: he saw a tremendous potential in taking the initiative, so he started working on his master’s degree in digital technology at Germany’s University of Greifswald to remain abreast of the newest technologies. I am determined to pass on what I have learned to students and teachers.

As a team, Blatz and Bergler designed and created the CAD/CAM Ceramic Center, which was formerly housed on the third level of the Evans Building. The goal of this center was to boost the school’s digital skills in research, teaching, and clinical treatment. The facility has been deeply engaged in the implementation of every level of digital technology development and in the production of intricate case designs. It is a pivotal component of the research and development of different types of materials, the creation of stunningly sophisticated aesthetic case designs, and software design and development as well. “This lab laid the groundwork for the new Center for Virtual Treatment Planning,” Bergler explains. He is in charge of the new Center.

In the meanwhile, in 2013, Blatz engaged Dr. Julián Conejo, a prosthodontist who has been employing digital technology in his private practice since 2010, to maintain the skills the Penn Dental Medicine community has built over the last several years. Conejo, the clinical CAD/CAM director, has placed his emphasis on increasing research, with a special concentration on chairside CAD/CAM dentistry. By partnering with Blatz, Conejo initiated a pilot study that tested a totally digital workflow, with one intraoral scanner and one milling machine. The pilot research used two single-machines with one operator, while the other two machines were operated by those who worked for Blatz. It was easy for the pilot to prove to be a success quickly. According to Conejo, we were able to rapidly increase the size of that pilot research, which made it possible for us to increase the number of participants in our larger scale research. “And now, it’s rewarding to see where we are today with intraoral scanners in all our clinics and the many resources of our new Digital Design and Milling Center.”

Morton Amsterdam Dean Mark Wolff, who is also president of the Pennsylvania Dental Society, said that one of the primary challenges that Dental Medicine’s faculty and staff face is ensuring that all of the faculty and students have the necessary training to excel in digital dentistry. In order to meet this challenge, Wolff supported and wholeheartedly embraced the faculty and staff’s goal to establish the new facilities and swiftly moved through with the project plans.

A person sits at a computer looking at a microscopic view of mouth anatomy on screen.
Immersed in the latest tools, software, and techniques, students at the School of Dental Medicine are learning the skills needed by emerging dental professionals. In new spaces in the Evans Building, they’re working with faculty to provide patients with cutting-edge, timely care. (source: Penn Today)


Categories: Dental