Dental lab technology – should everything be digital?

The number one topic discussed at dental exhibitions and congresses lately is the actual and supposed benefits of digital technology. Is this hype justified? We have asked one of the top dental laboratory technicians for his opinion. Read on to find out what Oliver Brix (Germany) has to say on this subject.

Mr Brix, in your presentation at the Competence in Esthetics Symposium in Belgrade in 2016 you debated the issue of “digital over manual”…

Oliver Brix:
Of course, I take advantage of digital techniques. But only to a certain point. I still like to have the possibility of making certain adjustments manually. In other words, I don’t want to rely on CAD/CAM and computers 100 per cent.

Why not?

Oliver Brix:
I would like to maintain complete freedom and flexibility and not be constrained by anything in my work. I would like to be in control of the result, since I am responsible to my patients and to myself.

You are well-known for your perfectionism. Does this have an influence?

Oliver Brix: I set high standards for myself and my work. My aim is to imitate nature as closely as possible. I need to achieve this natural look in order for the restoration to be a success. Restorations must look natural, not artificial. The result should be indistinguishable from the real thing. You cannot achieve those kinds of results by relying on machines completely. Manual work remains indispensable.

However, would it not be more convenient and affordable to rely on CAD/CAM completely and save a few manufacturing steps?

Oliver Brix: It might be more convenient. However, I would like to continue working with models that I can hold and try in and remove. In addition, having the possibility of making adjustments is important to me. I would also like to test crowns on the models first, before they are inserted in the patient’s mouth. Even if I were given the opportunity to dispense with the use of a model, I would not consider taking advantage of it.

Other opinions have been voiced regarding this topic. At the mentioned symposium a number of speakers extolled the opportunities presented by CAD/CAM. They seemed convinced of the fact that soon dental technicians would no longer be working with models.

Oliver Brix: Quite naturally some people may have this stance. It’s all a question of attitude. I would not say that my opinion on this topic is the be all and end all. Nevertheless, my experience of more than 30 years tells me that traditional manual work definitely has its merits. Manual refinement of the restorations is an essential component of my work. I will not give up this recipe which has earned me so many successes in the past. First and foremost, I trust in my skill as a dental technician.

Let’s change the topic: What are your thoughts on IPS e.max?

Oliver Brix: I’ve been working with IPS e.max for the past twelve years. This all-ceramic allows me to create all my restorations by using only one system. It provides me with everything I need in order to achieve the high standards that I expect of my dental restorations.

Personal details:
Brix Oliver
Oliver Brix has been running his own dental laboratory “innovative dentaldesign” in Bad Homburg/Germany since 2012. He has authored several specialist books and has given lectures at international congresses and advanced education events. Oliver Brix is specialized in the fields of all-ceramic restorations and tooth function and esthetics.

In order to successfully imitate natural teeth and their build-up in terms of the tooth colour, the brightness and perceived depth of the restorations need to be properly adjusted. This task is still considered to be the main challenge of dental technicians in the fabrication of dental restorations. You can read more about this subject in the Special Edition IPS e.max Ceram by Oliver Brix.

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