“The high-end manual refinement process remains unchanged”

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The human element: Master dental technician Alexander Aronin points out that high-end manual refinement processes have been a constant throughout history, involving communication and handcrafting among skilled individuals and demanding clients. (Image: Dennis Debiase/Kuraray Noritake Dental)

Thu. 11. January 2024


Alexander Aronin is a master dental technician dedicated to the creation of high-end handmade porcelain restorations. He runs a dental laboratory and morphology school in Spain and teaches around the world. Aronin’s greatest source of professional inspiration is the book A Collection of Ceramic Works by Hitoshi Aoshima. Upon reading it in 1996, he discovered the superb outcomes that can be achieved with dental ceramics and realised that the creation of handmade porcelain work is the result of specialised education and honed manual skills. To become a master, one needs to be committed to the pursuit of continuous improvement, which is evident in Aronin’s work and classes. In this interview, he talks about his philosophy and enthusiasm for the creation of lifelike restorations and shares his perspective on the future of dental technology, providing some practical tips on how to achieve a high level of professional satisfaction.

Mr Aronin, many dental technicians decide to focus on CAD/CAM technology and automated processing of dental ceramics. Owing to improvements on the material side, a handmade porcelain layer is no longer necessary in many clinical cases. In this context, the manual refinement process is reduced to a minimum. Why did you decide to take a completely different path and focus on fully manual dental craftsmanship?
The shift towards automated processing is not a matter of choice for dental technicians; rather, it is a natural response to the evolution of technology. The high-end manual refinement process remains unchanged. The human element, from communication to handcrafting among skilled individuals and demanding clients, has been a constant so far throughout history. It is a traditional connection that has remained stable for centuries.

Digitalisation is not the revolution in the dental industry, and I do not yet see the benefit of it in our narrow specialisation. In the area we are working in, we complete steps of a case faster, incomparably more precisely and with greater profitability. But we are keeping an eye on machines and waiting for a suitable one.

Machines and automated processes widely serve mass production businesses that are focused on fast, affordable and uniform results in a highly competitive field. Our goal and workflow are different: we provide individualised work and focus personal attention on each of our partners and patients. We do not compete with the production laboratories and do not interfere with each other; we coexist in parallel worlds. A small number of dentists and their patients will always demand personal attention and value restorations and service of the highest quality.

Aronin has used Noritake ceramic throughout his career. The company's EX-3 porcelain, he says, was so well made that it has not needed any changes. (Image: Kuraray Noritake Dental)

Many dental technicians admire your work, yet you continue to strive for improvement. Why is that?
On the one hand, we are limited by static ceramic material used to mimic dynamic natural teeth that keep changing over a lifetime. On the other hand, we are limited by our manual skills. I am still far behind my teachers and Japanese peers. My target is to improve the fabrication process. My goal is to achieve the simplicity and imperfectness of Sensei Aoshima.

We enjoy the outcome, but we prefer to focus on improving the process and moving on to create a better one. That is what I am learning in Japan and what I teach my students.

Speaking of learning, what are the most important aspects that a dental technician who wants to improve his or her skills should have in mind when looking for a teacher?
Manual skills are very important but are not the only aspect that should be taken into account. Every individual should be motivated and guided, and that is a teacher’s job.

I love the traditional Japanese way of teaching and learning: teachers are passionate, leading the way by evoking emotions and drawing forth manual skills in order to bring out the best in every single student. My personal advice for dental technicians who want to become masters in the creation of lifelike, high-end dental restorations is to select their teachers carefully and go to a private school or courses whenever they have the chance.

“Great accomplishment seems imperfect, yet it does not outlive its usefulness.”—Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, in his foundational text Tao Te Ching

What are the most important tools a dental technician needs to use when trying to create high-end, lifelike restorations?
I suggest focusing on four aspects:

1. documentary dental photography, which is required for documentation and communication with the dental office and patients using constant parameters (set once and never changed) of the photographic equipment;

2. biomimetic additive dentistry—this is a minimum machine use field in which dental technicians and dentists need to develop a deep knowledge of clinical and laboratory procedures to be able to communicate with each other;

3. mastery of morphology and function (shape carving) and anatomy (internal staining), which comes with value control, and mimicking of fine tooth details for best integration in the mouth; and

4. written communication (not phone calls), which is very important for the exchange of information between the patient, clinic and laboratory by strict protocols.

I teach these complex skills in my morphology school and in much of my training worldwide. By focusing on these four aspects, a dental technician will have a great chance to become a good specialist in a relatively short period in a narrow field.

Alexander Aronin lecturing at the International Dental Show 2023 in Cologne in Germany. (Image: Dennis Debiase/Kuraray Noritake Dental)

Is material selection important for achieving great results?
I have been using Noritake ceramic for most of my life, and the reason is simple: Noritake created its EX-3 porcelain over 40 years ago, and it was so well made that it has not needed any changes. This shows the consistently high quality and supports unbroken succession in the valuable tradition of passing on techniques and knowledge.

Today, among different generations of dental technicians, we can use and share the same methods, vocabulary and abbreviations, powders and temperature charts that our skilled teachers developed 30–40 years ago. This unique feature sets Noritake and Creation porcelains apart from all other brands and systems in the world.

The other Noritake porcelain I use quite frequently is CERABIEN ZR, which is also tried and tested and even offers some more advantages than EX-3 does.

Is there any final advice you would like to give?
To become a good dental professional, I suggest developing in four parallel directions:

1. experimenting and practising with varied materials and techniques on phantoms—fabricating cases and ceramic samples;

2. implementing the techniques achieved in clinical cases;

3. working with case presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, documenting the working steps in pictures and videos from beginning to end; and

4. mastering communication via email.

The dental technician must constantly calibrate and adjust the information exchange process between the clinic and laboratory. I encourage dental professionals to seek to acquire deeper knowledge about each other’s work.

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