Interview: “If you can dream it, you can do it with exocad”
As an industry innovator and enthusiast in the field of dental implants, dentures and digital technology, Dr Michael Scherer is an expert in his field and knows how to handle the hybrid environment of dental clinic and laboratory. When he is not working as a prosthodontist at his practice in Sonora in California in the US, or enjoying his great love of nature when going scuba diving, hiking or skiing, Scherer enjoys speaking at educational conferences of all sizes. At the exocad Insights 2020 event in Darmstadt in Germany, Dental Tribune International met with Scherer to talk about his lecture at the event in which he discussed what dentists can do with exocad, described his experience with the software and explained why digital dentistry is the future.
Dr Scherer, in your lecture you spoke about the use of exocad in your dental practice that also includes a practice laboratory. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
As prosthodontists we tend to have a bit of a hybrid role between laboratory technician and clinician. A big part of what I do with any kind of CAD software, but especially with exocad, is utilising digital dentistry in creative ways. So much of my practice and day-to-day workflow involves dealing with comprehensive cases, especially for patients who need dentures, overdentures or full-arch fixed prostheses. I share the practice with my wife, who is an orthodontist. Between the two of us, we have a sizeable dental office where it is possible to have a full laboratory set-up as well. I have a full-time technician in my office who works for both of us on our treatment cases.
My average day focuses as much as possible on digital dentistry because that is what motivates many of my patients to come to my practice. Everybody thinks a Californian dentist must practise in Hollywood or near the beach, but that is not the case for us at all. We are based in a semi-rural area that is only 45 minutes away from Yosemite National Park and feels like the Bavaria of California. People drive 3–5 hours to get to my office. So if I can create a digital workflow where I can do the obvious things, but also maybe some less obvious things, then that is a motivator for them.
“The future is now, and without a doubt, the analogue workflow will eventually disappear”
How did you come across exocad's software solutions, and how long have you been using them?
I am part of a new generation of dentists, and even though I look like I am 22 sometimes [laughs], I have been practising for close to 15 years. In the early stages of my career, everybody told me: “Well, digital dentistry is great, but you need to change what you do in dentistry to get it to work.” At the time, the technology was still in its infancy. However, I grew up with computers, as my parents knew that they were going to be the next big thing. So, I had a computer in my hands at the age of 3, which was really young, but it meant that, when I started practising dentistry, it was easy for me to integrate digital technology into my work.
I have used exocad for a pretty long time. We used it in its early stages in some of my residency training. When I really started using it seriously was probably five years ago, about the time when I needed it for that full laboratory application in my practice. And then I was able to use it extensively, especially with dentures, when Plovdiv came out. The latest, or now the second latest, version of exocad was really serious with regard to digital dentures and it has been really awesome using it.
Do you feel that most of your colleagues have started to adapt to digital solutions in their practices, or would you say that there are still a lot of dentists holding on to analogue ways? What would you say to them in order to convince them to go digital?
The one thing that is interesting about the last couple of versions of exocad is that it has become even more simple to do complex tasks. Before, you would have had to take all these workarounds and use special ways to accomplish something, but nowadays, especially with the newest version, exocad Galway, so much of that is built into the software already. That is a tremendous enhancement and will make it possible for the average clinician to be able to jump into CAD as well. Certainly, digital design is an intimidating part of the process for a lot of dentists, and if you can simplify the digital design side as well as streamline it, then many more will jump on board.
There are still quite a few dentists who are using analogue workflows, and there is nothing wrong with that. You can still do great dentistry using polyvinylsiloxane impressions and stone models. What these dentists probably do not realise is that, if they send the work out to a technician, he or she is very probably using a digital workflow. So, the question is whether this technology will improve the clinician. Possibly yes, possibly no. What I would ask that clinician is: why wait? The future is now, and without a doubt, the analogue workflow will eventually disappear. Will it be going away rapidly? I don’t think so. As dentists, we tend to be pretty cautious and conservative when it comes to things like that. This is for a good reason, and it is something I would expect. I would want my dentist to be sure and able to say: “Yes, this will work.”
In my personal opinion, intra-oral scanning, for example, is beyond having been proved and should be considered part of the standard of care. There are a lot of laboratories using 3D printing and milling, but it is also true that you can do some great dentistry with analogue techniques. For now, the mixed approach will probably be applicable; however, in the near future, it is inevitable that a shift will happen.
“Part of what exocad does is that it allows your software to be free and it allows your mind to be free while using it”
So, in the clinical environment, you use exocad software every day. If you had to pick one word to describe the exocad software and what it does for you, what would that be?
I don’t know if I can put it into one word, but in one phrase it would be “limitless possibilities”. If you can dream it, you can do it with exocad. Well, maybe “freedom” would be one word for it then. Certainly, the company has used that term before, and I agree. Part of what exocad does is that it allows your software to be free and it allows your mind to be free while using it. When you really start to look at how the software fits into a dental practice, it is streamlined so you don’t have to be too creative with it, and it just works. But if you want to take that next step, you can go ahead and do that because you have the freedom to do so.
Are there any limitations you would like to mention or things you would like to see improved?
There are always ways to improve. You know, if we ever reach a point where something can no longer be improved, then what is the point anymore? Improvement can occur anywhere and everywhere. The question is: what can be dreamed up next? What it comes down to is that there is a fine line between striving for simplicity and adding new features. The key is a good hybrid blend between simplicity and comprehensiveness, and this is where exocad shines.
Digital dentistry is a very fast-paced field. What are your expectations in terms of innovations in the near future?
You know, I am not really someone who can predict the future. What I certainly hope for is that we strive to grow more digital and comprehensive and adapt slowly towards that. The real future is the ability to transfer the basic factors of the workflow, starting from scanning over to designing and manufacturing. We find that happening with ChairsideCAD and all the other dentist-directed software from exocad. Clearly, the future is a harmony between clinician and laboratory.