Digital Smile Design: The Ultimate Guide for Dentists

Digital Smile Design: The Ultimate Guide for Dentists image

Avant Dental makes digital smile design possible for all dental practices.

Avant digital smile design is changing how dentists approach cosmetic dentistry. Armed with the latest digital smile design software and technology, dentists are now able to give their patients that perfect smile.

This is changing the game for suburban dentists. Digital dental design has now made it possible for the smallest practices to achieve patient outcomes as good as — or better than — the larger players. And patients are paying attention.

In the age of social media sharing, patient expectations are on the way up. But for many patients, smile design dentistry is no longer about achieving the perfect smile. Rather, patients are getting more specific about the smile that is perfect for them.

Avant digital smile design makes this level of personalisation easily achievable for even the smallest practices. We provide full-service digital smile design from our Sydney digital smile design lab to achieve the particular specifications each patient wants.

That’s enabling small general dental practices to achieve cosmetic patient outcomes that are as good as — or better than — the larger players.

It’s a bespoke approach to digital dental design that can transform even the most basic practice into an exclusive cosmetic clinic. And, with Avant, you can be up and running in no time. In fact, it’s as easy as a simple five-step process.

Dr Evan Stacey, lead dental surgeon at Profilo Dental Care in Newcastle, uses Avant digital smile design in his own highly successful practice. He says partnering with a good digital lab makes the transition to offering digital smile design quite straightforward.

“If you have a good relationship with a lab that does good smile design work, that’s your basic foundation,” he explains. “If your lab has the expertise and is generally well coordinated, it shouldn’t be difficult at all for you to start offering cosmetic services in your practice.”

In terms of the investment required to start offering smile design dentistry, Dr Stacey says smile design technology only consists of a standard intra-oral scanner and perhaps an SLR camera.

“If you want to slowly transition into digital smile design, you won’t need to invest any great sums of money in it. An intra-oral scanner is definitely worth its weight in gold, so if you don’t already have one, I’d recommend investing in one. It will eliminate expensive impression materials, so you’ll end up saving a lot there.”

Dr Stacey also recommends buying a good quality SLR camera, although he says it’s not essential.

“You want to be able to show off your good work. That’s how you’re going to get more patients to seek out your cosmetic services. You can get decent photos with a smartphone or a point-and-click camera, but a good SLR will help you capture better quality images. It’s also worthwhile doing a photography course to learn how to get the best out of it.”

Other than a standard intra-oral scanner and an SLR camera, there’s little left to do. Most good digital smile design labs will have an efficient dental digital design workflow in place, and should be able to integrate with your existing scanner and digital smile design software. Some labs, including Avant, also still accept physical impressions.

Dr Stacey adds that most dentists will already have the clinical skills required for digital smile design. However, it’s important to know your limitations. Listen to feedback from your digital smile design lab when it comes to more complex cases, and know when you need to send a case to a specialist.

“Other than that, it’s just a matter of building up confidence,” says Dr Stacy. “Listen to your lab and accept guidance while you’re developing your experience. They are here to help, and will work with you to help achieve the best outcomes.”

Avant has developed a simple five-step smile design workflow. Whether you’re an experienced cosmetic dentist, or just getting started, we can help you deliver best-practice cosmetic treatments that will delight your patients.

Here’s how Avant smile design works:

Step 1: Patient consultation

It all begins with a conversation with your patients. Dr Stacey prefers a softer approach and doesn’t push his patients into smile design treatments.

“You don’t want to give patients the hard sell. That will only make them feel like they’ve been pushed into a treatment they didn’t really want,” he says. “I find that it’s enough to make patients aware that we offer digital smile design, and let them come to me.”

Dr Stacey explains that having a relaxed, measured conversation with motivated patients is the best way to set achievable expectations from the start.

“Ask what their goals and ambitions are, and be clear and upfront about what you can achieve for the patient,” he says. “Explain that you can move, reposition and align teeth, but you can’t alter the underlying facial structure.”

Dr Stacey also points out that any significant misalignment or tooth wear needs to be resolved prior to starting the digital smile design process.

“When it comes to tooth wear or damage, you have to look at causation,” he explains. “If you place veneers over worn or damaged teeth, then the same damage is likely to occur to the veneer. You’ve got to identify causation and resolve the problem for the cosmetic treatment to be successful.”

But Dr Stacey warns that it’s important to be sure that the patient has realistic expectations before moving on to pre-planning the treatment.

“The consultation process gives you a feel as to what that patient will be like,” he says. “If your gut feeling is that the case will be more trouble than it’s worth, you’re probably right and you’re better off letting that patient go. That comes with experience.”

Once you’ve identified that the patient is a good candidate for smile design and agreed on achievable expectations, it’s time to move onto the pre-planning stage.

Digital smile design planning is essential to achieve optimal results, so the clearer you are on the patient’s specific goals, the better the end product will be. Discuss shapes, contours and proportions with the patient, and determine what they would like to improve on aesthetically. Then either impressions or a digital scan is taken, along with photographs of the patient’s current situation.

Step 2: Design proposal

Avant reviews the outcome of the patient consultation and produces a design proposal with digital smile design software that details what we can achieve for the patient. However, providing all the information available is critical to achieving the best outcome.

For example, the lab needs full disclosure on the patient situation to guide the material choice. A patient might have one discoloured tooth, but to effectively mask that single tooth, we’ll need to apply the same material to all the teeth in order to achieve consistency. That needs to be handled in advance, and all that information is critical to inform the design process.

Dr Stacey agrees that committing appropriate time and attention to the design stage is vital, and you’ll need to work closely with your digital smile design lab throughout the design process.

“If you spend time on the design planning, everything else becomes easy and predictable,” he says. “I’ll provide scans and photos to the lab via the digital smile design software, and let them know the rough shape that I’m after. But it’s a collaborative process. I’ll work with Avant to get to the best solution, and if I have a particularly complex case, I’ll seek their advice and listen to their feedback.”

Once we have all the necessary patient information, we’ll identify the case type and recommend the most suitable materials we believe will achieve the best outcome. We’ll also create a computer generated design proposal with our digital smile design software that gives the dentist and the patient a visual representation of our proposal.

Step 3: Design approval

The dentist and patient review the design proposal. The dentist can share screen shots of the computer generated design with the patient, or you can remotely access the design via our online digital smile design software and make on-the-spot alterations with assistance from one of our experienced technicians in real time.

Patients can also view a 3D representation of the design, which Dr Stacey says is an excellent way to ensure patient expectations are being appropriately managed well before the treatment stage.

“The more the patient is involved in the design approval stage, the more ownership they have of the final result,” he explains. “They get more input into the design and get the opportunity to raise questions or concerns when changes are still easy to make.”

Dr Stacey adds that involving the patient in the design approval stage also decreases the likelihood of any apprehension on the day of the treatment.

“By the time we get to the day of the veneer placement, the patient knows what it’s going to look like, and the dentist is confident that the patient’s expectations are in line with the likely outcome. This prevents a lot of problems down the track.”

The design approval stage also typically involves collaboration between the dentist and digital smile design lab to fine tune the treatment. It’s a two-way street of open communication. The dentist has an opportunity to perfect the design, and the lab can offer advice or request more information.

“I know as dentists we like to tick boxes and want processes to be the same every time, but in practice smile design doesn’t work that way,” says Dr Stacey. “It’s a collaborative process that requires give and take from the dentist and the lab. That’s how you achieve the best outcomes for your patients.”

Step 4: 3D model trial

Once the computer generated design is approved, we print a 3D model of the design and produce either a suck-down template or a putty key or an injectable stent(depending on the dentist’s preference) that the patient can place over their existing teeth as a temporary trial. After a period wearing the model, the patient might choose to make further alterations or go ahead with the treatment.

Dr Stacey says checking for fit, shape and length is critical at this stage, and should not be skipped.

“On a digital model everything looks absolutely perfect, but then you place it in the patient’s mouth and everything looks like it’s on a slant,” he explains. “That’s because some patients will have a small degree of facial asymmetry that only becomes evident with the model in place.”

If that’s the case, the dentist will often take a new scan of the patient with the model in place. We can then use that new scan at the lab to tweak the design and create a new model.

“It might only be a slight angulation and the lab can simply rotate the model by a degree or two,” says Dr Stacey. “That is an easy fix at this stage, but would be a much bigger deal if you didn’t catch it until after the veneers have been cemented.”

The model trial is the final opportunity for the dentist or patient to request changes to the design before the final veneers are manufactured. Close focus on this stage will ensure treatment day goes exactly to plan.

“You might think ‘why am I going to pay an extra couple of hundred dollars for a model and waste an appointment?’. But it’s going to save so many headaches. Once those veneers are cemented in there’s no turning back. You will have already paid the lab for them, so any rectification of any issues after the model has been approved will have to come out of your pocket.”

Step 5: Treatment begins

With the dentist’s approval, we manufacture and colour match the required veneers, crowns, bridges or implants to the exact specifications in the design proposal. The dentist then begins treatment and the digital smile design process is complete.

“If you‘ve followed the digital smile design process, then the treatment itself is basically a slam dunk,” says Dr Stacey. “But that’s not to say there are no clinical skills to develop. I’m always looking at how to improve. Every time I do anything, I review what went well, and what were the things that could be done better.”

Dr Stacey says that mistakes will be part of the learning journey, particularly for less experienced dentists. However, being honest and up-front with the patient will go a long way to resolving any issues.

“Mistakes are just as valuable as the things that go well,” he says. “If you make a mistake, don’t get down on yourself. Just identify the things that didn’t work, and how you’re going to avoid it next time. You’ll progressively get better and avoid those pitfalls. As long as you’re direct and upfront with the patient, they’ll appreciate that you’re not trying to hide the mistake.”

However, the digital smile design lab is here to help ensure every smile design treatment is set up for success. As long as the dentist provides detailed patient information, commits to a collaborative approach, and doesn’t race through design approval or skip model trials, you — and your patients — can be confident of achieving excellent outcomes.

And as word of your smile design prowess spreads, your practice will have access to a lucrative new revenue stream that will help to improve the long-term sustainability of your dental business.

Want to find out more about partnering with Avant for all your dental lab needs? Please email
or phone 1800 287 336.

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