Dental Lab Pioneers Highlight the Potential of Digital Denture Production (Part 1)
Since being founded in 1958, Wada Precision Dental Laboratories has been at the forefront of the dental laboratory market in Japan. With branches around the country and 1,100 employees, including approximately 800 dental technicians, it is one of the largest dental laboratories in the industry. The CAD/CAM Center, located in Osaka, conducts research into state-of-the-art dental techniques and has been testing Roland DG’s first dental 3D printer, the DWP-80S, to streamline the denture fabrication process. We spoke to Mr. Shizuo Higuchi, Managing Director and Mr. Norihiro Yoshitsugu, Assistant Manager of the lab’s Production Division about the potential of digital dentures produced using digital tools.
How widely are digital dentures used in Japan currently?
Higuchi: There are many types of dental restorations available, and digital production of crowns, bridges and other restoration methods in particular is on the rise as they are covered by insurance in Japan. Yet the dentures that more patients need are almost entirely made manually as digital technology is rarely used. Several years ago, manufacturers overseas began offering digital systems for all the processes required for full dentures, however there are few clinical cases available and the systems are very costly, which means it will take time for mainstream use of such systems in Japan. I think digital production of partial dentures, which account for more than 80% of dentures produced, will be a key area in the future.
What are the benefits of producing dentures using digital technology?
Higuchi: The biggest advantages are efficiency and reduced labor. Dentures involve many processes until they are completed, and if even some of those processes can be replaced by digital technology, it will help reduce the workload of dental technicians. This will allow them to focus on processes with a higher value.
What are some examples of high, value-added processes?
Higuchi: The design of dental restorations is one example. Regardless of whether digital or analog methods are used for production, the first step is determining what type of restorations to make based on the patient’s dental impression. Designing the optimum denture for each and every patient requires exceptional skill, experience and know-how. For example, using digital technology to reduce work time will give younger dental technicians more time to learn advanced techniques, like making specific applications. I think that this will help boost the skill level of technicians.
Will digital technology also affect the work environment of dental technicians?
Higuchi: I think that digital technology will be very effective for reducing the amount of time that dental technicians will spend working. In the past, dental technicians simply had to work longer hours if their workload increased. Today, however, the industry is shifting toward methods that reduce the working hours of dental technicians while maintaining production capability by introducing digital systems.
Be sure to read Part 2 to find out how they felt about using Roland DG’s dental 3D printer!
For more information about Wada Precision Dental Laboratories, please visit http://www.labowada.co.jp/about_us/e_index.html.