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As the president and owner of the Denture Center in Canada, Eric D. Kukucka has overseen the growth of a network of clinics that prioritise the creation of high-quality prosthetic restorations through digital workflows. At the upcoming 3Shape Global Symposium, he will be discussing how denturists can transition to a digital-first approach with confidence and ease. Dental Tribune International spoke with Mr Kukucka ahead of his presentation at this free online event.
Mr Kukucka, how long have you been a denturist? What attracted you to this field?
I graduated as a denturist in 2010 and got into it partly because I liked working with my hands and liked the science-based approach of this field. A family friend was already a denturist and really enjoyed the lifestyle it provided, and so I followed our friend’s lead.
What kick-started your digital denture journey?
From early on in my studies we followed what’s known as the biofunctional prosthetic system for removable prosthetics, a system created by Ivoclar. I ended up working closely with the company as a result of that and started lecturing for them and publishing some articles. It was in September 2014 when I opened my own private practice that I was shown the concept and idea behind digital dentures by Ivoclar and was invited to be part of the alpha and beta testing teams for this technology. And that's how it all started.
Have these digital denture workflows changed in the years since?
Absolutely. These workflows have really evolved exponentially over the years in terms of both manufacturing and scanning. From taking traditional impressions, milling a base and then putting in artificial teeth, now we are able to manufacture 3D-printed bases and teeth. Likewise, there are now better and faster box scanners and intra-oral scanners that have been developed and engineered for dentures specifically. Working with 3Shape truly enabled me to take the next leap from a scanning and design software perspective.
What benefits does the digitalisation of the denture process bring for the clinician, the dental laboratory technician and the patient?
I think there are a multitude of benefits. From a clinical perspective, you can easily reduce chair time and the number of in-person appointments and thereby increase your efficiency. You also don’t have to use conventional impression materials and, together, these factors can lead to better patient experience and ensure a high level of data acquisition and preservation. From the dental laboratory perspective, you’re able to improve your production efficiency while knowing that you’re delivering a stronger, more predictable and scalable product.
Are there any common obstacles that prevent denturists from adopting and integrating digital workflows?
I think one of the greatest obstacles is the financial investment that this approach can require. In addition, a lack of training or awareness, or a misunderstanding of what these workflows involve, can prevent denturists from going digital. Of course, resistance to change is another factor—a mentality that makes it difficult to adopt these newer, more efficient workflows.
How were you introduced to 3Shape’s range of products and digital dentistry solutions?
It was through my work with Ivoclar. I was working directly with both 3Shape’s design and scanning teams because, as a denturist, I deal with both the clinical and technical aspects of these digital denture processes.
What 3Shape solutions do you use in your daily practice?
We have many 3Shape products and solutions, including several 3Shape TRIOS MOVE+ intra-oral scanners, the TRIOS 3 Wireless and Basic scanners, 3Shape E4 and E2 lab scanners and the 3Shape Dental System premium software. Though the open ecosystem that 3Shape enables is an excellent feature, I personally appreciate how predictably and cohesively their suite of solutions work together.
What will you be highlighting in your presentation at the upcoming 3Shape Global Symposium?
In short, I’ll be discussing the pathway to digital dentures. When you’re getting into something that you’ve never done before, a clear entry point is essential to make the transition as smooth as possible, and I’ll be talking about a pathway that involves the reference denture technique. This effectively involves taking the patient’s existing denture and utilising this to take digital impressions of the patient’s oral cavity before scanning that denture. What this provides, from a clinical perspective, is a guideline or template that can be improved upon in a manner that is far more predictable and reproducible than what can be done with a traditional analogue approach. This is crucial since often patients come into a dental practice seeking to change something about their existing denture, and it’s a process that is made much easier by employing the reference denture technique.
What do you want attendees to take away from your presentation?
My goal is to motivate them to take that leap of faith and initiate their own digital denture journey through a pathway and workflow that is tried and tested. I want to help clinicians and technicians to be better at what they do because, ultimately, there’s an individual at the end of all of this, and he or she deserves the best possible treatment and care.
Mr Kukucka’s presentation, titled “The pathway to digital dentures”, will be broadcast online on 1 April at 1 a.m. CEST as part of the 3Shape Global Symposium. Participants will have the opportunity to earn 1 continuing education credit by answering a questionnaire after the presentation. Fast and easy registration on the symposium website is free of charge.