Having an In-House Lab Benefits Patients

April 26, 2024 Stephen Malone DMD

Stephen Malone, DMD 

Our Knoxville, Tennessee, dental practice has grown to where we now have four dentists, as well as four hygienists, six dental assistants, two patient coordinators, a practice manager with two front-office patient care specialists, and one more primary partner in our dental practice—Bob Cutshaw. Bob is a master lab technician with over 40 years of experience and owner of Cutshaw Labs. He has been a partner in care with me for nearly 25 years and collaborates with our doctors on all dental restorations requiring lab work. 

Recently, I was thinking again about how grateful I am for my association with Bob and for the many benefits of having his lab located downstairs within our practice facility. Perhaps, having a lab in-house is something other dentists might aspire to eventually have in their own private practice. 

Bob is involved in care planning just as much as I and the other dentists. We can sit side by side to collaborate on treatment using a combination of digital 3D modeling and analog articulated models and wax-ups. 

For patients with complex needs, he routinely comes into the operatory or the consultation room to meet with patients. As he explains his involvement in their care and how the highest quality materials and latest techniques will be used, they become fascinated in the laboratory methods and technologies. Some request a tour of the lab and want to watch some of the process. 

We use digital designs for all prosthetics. Bob’s professional-grade 3D printers work all day long for predictable, efficient fabrication of custom restorations. Then he hand-paints and glazes the crowns and prosthetics for optimal natural aesthetics. Because he is involved in planning our most complex cases that involve implant supported hybrid denture, he is deeply invested in the details that allow the finished product to be delivered with ease. 

Having his lab in-house allows us to rapidly fix issues that arise, for example, alterations to a restoration when it doesn’t quite fit right or has a slightly incorrect shade. Instead of waiting for days or weeks to deliver back and forth a restoration to an outside lab, we make the changes here on the same day. 

For Patients undergoing clear aligner treatment, we manufacture our clear aligners in-house. If a patient loses or damages a tray, it is immediately replaced so the patient doesn’t lose precious time in treatment. The same goes for our occlusal splints, night guards, sports mouth guards, and Essix retainers. 

One of the branding traits of our practice that has earned us our high reputation is the in-house laboratory. Without a doubt, having this lab just downstairs is a major way in which we enhance the quality of care we provide to our patients. 

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Stephen Malone DMD

Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for nearly 20 years. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role. Among the continuing education programs he has attended, The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education is noteworthy. He was the youngest dentist to earn the status of Pankey Scholar at this world-renowned post-doctoral educational institution, and he is now a member of its Visiting Faculty.

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A Tip for Matching the Color of Cement Between an Implant Abutment and Crown

March 8, 2024 Lee Ann Brady

Trying to match the color of the cement between the abutment and the dental implant crown in the anterior can be very frustrating. Here’s a trick that works well for me. 

A while back I was struggling to match the color of the cement between the abutment and an anterior implant crown. I always try-in the abutment and the crown and try to confirm the shade before they are put together. We do this because the laboratory can’t redo the shade once they’ve bonded the crown and the abutment for screw retention without trying to separate the cement, which is difficult. 

Over the years, it was a challenge to replicate the opacity of the cement used to connect the titanium abutment and ceramic crown. I’ve tried using some of the opaquest try-in paste on the market. 

In the case I referred to above, we thought we had it. My lab cemented it together and I put it in. I could see the opacity of the cement through the restoration. So, we had to take it apart and try again. My laboratory technician shared with me a trick that he had learned from one of his other dentist clients. And that was to simply go to CVS, Costco, or Target and buy good old fashioned liquid white out.  

Now, I put a very tiny amount of whiteout on a micro brush and paint it on the inside of the labial surface of the crown on the intaglio surface. Then, I use a bit of translucent try-in paste to seat the crown. 

The whiteout works well because it is basically titanium dioxide and water with preservatives—the same white compound that is in super white sunscreens. In my opinion, it is relatively safe to use, and I can see what the implant will look like when the pieces are cemented together. 

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Lee Ann Brady

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Do You Know What Type of Zirconia You Are Using? 

September 5, 2023 Lee Ann Brady DMD

We use the words “multilayer” and “multilayered” to describe lots of different materials from different manufacturers. If your lab tells you they use multilayered zirconia on a restoration or abutment, do you know what you are getting?

One of the ways we use the word multilayered is to describe a puck of zirconia that has two different types of zirconia.

Some of the pucks are a layer of 3y (the strongest but least aesthetic zirconia) with a layer of 5y (the weakest but most aesthetic zirconia). The laboratory technician puts the restoration design in the puck so that the 5y is on the facial of the restoration where you can see it and the 3y is on the incisal edge and lingual.

There are also pucks that are 4y zirconia layered with 5y zirconia. The 4y zirconia is a middle grade of both strength and aesthetics. In this case, the 5y is on the facial and the 4y is on the incisal edge and lingual.

Thus, there are two different ways to mix strength and aesthetics in one puck of zirconia and both variations are called “multi-layered.”

Complicating this even more, we use “multi-layered” to describe layers of chroma gradient or translucency. The laboratory technician can put the design pattern in the puck to achieve different gradient effects, but the restoration is all of one strength (one type of zirconia).

One of the challenges today with zirconia is that there is no place on a laboratory prescription to specify one of these varieties, and it needs to be clarified when communicating with your lab technician. Ask what your lab technician means by “multilayered zirconia,” and communicate clearly the multilayering you want used.

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About Author

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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Visit Your Dental Lab

August 26, 2020 Kelley Brummett DMD
Recently I went and spent time at the lab of my dental lab technician. I had heard that this was a good thing to do, but the value I got was far more than I expected when I scheduled the visit.

One of my labs is out of state and one is close by. I don’t frequently visit my labs, even the one that is close by, as I find many reasons not to go. However, whenever I have visited the local lab, I experienced them differently than when speaking with them over the phone. Early this year I set aside some time to visit my local lab.

Chairside Challenges With Patients

We have challenges chairside with our patients… It could be the size of their tongue, how they open, the frequency of how little they open, and just like us, our labs run into problems. Oftentimes, they don’t have the whole picture. The patient isn’t sitting in front of them. They only have an impression, a scan, or a model. So, I went around to each person in the lab and asked them what they are looking for when working with a dentist, their concerns, and the roadblocks they come up against. How easy is it for them to pick up the phone and call us about some of the challenges they are experiencing while working with a case?

The visit accomplished a few things. One, we established a more open relationship. This means I’m going to call them as frequently as I need, and they are going to call me as frequently as they need. Two, we reviewed the case and they assisted me with my wax-up. We had an open and honest conversation in which they helped me understand how I can improve my work. We also got to know each other. This is important to me because I strive to have a relationship based practice. I want to be able to speak honestly with my patients and lab, to laugh, and to celebrate the things that are going well.

Conversations With Your Lab Technician

What you do chairside with your patient can be enhanced by conversations with your lab technician. I know that sounds obvious, but what I heard from my lab is that dentists are so busy, they don’t pick up the phone and reach out. And when the lab calls dentists about the challenges of a case, these busy clinicians frequently don’t want to be interrupted by the call. Typically, they don’t want to redo something.

The reality is that we are not perfect, and it is challenging for the lab to make decisions when they don’t have all the information. In my relationship-based practice, it is important for me to freely exchange feedback with my lab. We get feedback forms from labs so we can tell them how well they did. I want feedback from my lab, so I can learn how to improve what I do and understand the challenges they had. I’ve never had a lab willing to give me written feedback, but by developing relationships with the employees of my lab, I have learned some things that improved what I do. And it has made phone conversations with them easier to do.

Regular Laboratory Visits

When was the last time you stepped into the laboratory you use? Have you ever asked them how they can help you improve what you do? I urge you to visit your dental laboratory technician and open the conversation.

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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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Chew Test to Discover Functional Interference

August 24, 2020 Kelley Brummett DMD

I had a patient in a provisional on tooth #7, and he called to tell me he ate the crown. When he came in, I checked his occlusal marks in MIP, and there was a nice coupling with the opposing tooth. He was not hitting the tooth at all in protrusive, in right and left, and in crossover. He had not used floss and had not chewed on something sticky that would pull the provisional off. So, I put articulating paper between his teeth and used my iPhone to video him as he chewed like he was chewing food. What I discovered in the video is that he had a functional interference. He had broad strokes on the provisional whenever he was in his chew stroke.

I sent the video to the lab with the hope that the new information could be used to make a crown that would protect the tooth from breaking or becoming loose. This patient was adamant about not wanting orthodontics. I was able to show him why equilibrating his opposing tooth would be beneficial and he accepted equilibration.

Having run into this problem once, I am now checking for functional interferences with more patients by having them do “the chew test.”

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About Author

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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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