Celebrating Smiles | 24 November, 2020

Transforming Smiles and Lives Through Digital Smile Design

A radiant smile can transform a face – and now thanks to digital technology, Kiwis can check out their new smiles before starting treatment.

Digital Smile Design (DSD) combines digital technology with tooth and facial design to create the ultimate in beautiful natural smiles. Not only that but designs are 3D printed and tried in the patient’s mouth before dental work begins, giving patients an accurate view of the final result before they even start.

Global DSD instructor Andrea Shepperson runs New Zealand’s only DSD clinic – Lumino’s City Dental Quay Park in Auckland – and says this unique technology brings huge benefits to patients, from peace of mind throughout the process to a superior end result.

“The predictability and reassurance DSD offers patients is a huge advantage,” says Andrea.

“With the DSD Test Drive (the initial 3D printed design) all those normal anxieties about aesthetic work vanish. Questions such as ‘will this look like me’ or ‘will it look real’, cease to exist with the DSD protocol.”

Andrea likens the process to buying a new car.

“People love the fact you can try before you buy. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive first, so why would you get a new smile without that chance to test drive it?”

DSD begins with design from the face first. Rather than focusing just on teeth, it takes into account the harmony with the face and character of the patient. Video is used to capture 'Smile in Motion' - the impact lip movements, gum display and head posture have on the smile.  

“We spend just over an hour gathering digital records: scans, x-rays, photos, video. From there we create a complimentary preview – a 2D simulation to showcase the prospective design in the DSD app. In much the same way as you wouldn’t build a house without a plan, DSD is the same concept. The new patients initial visit is the concept plan that lays the foundations and resolves any site issues. Then the 3D design is the final blueprint for a bespoke design.”

While there is a design fee for the 3D design, cost savings come in predictability and outcomes, and City Dental Quay Park offers a range of digital manufacturing to meet most budgets. The practice uses technology in every aspect of their daily work, from simple cosmetic treatment of one or two teeth to a complete smile reconstruction, implants and dentures.

“I treat patients every day and use DSD multiple times a day. It’s a planning process and workflow I can’t do without and is used on every case. The planning and ability to see the design on a screen is one of the key benefits for a dentist, and that translates into huge benefits for the patient. Planning is thorough and accurate, and what we design is what the patient gets.”

Not surprisingly, the trailblazing technology is gaining traction. Widely used overseas, the use of digital technology is still relatively low in New Zealand dental practices. But Andrea says more and more dentists are starting to catch on and are beginning to blend digital techniques with their more traditional ones. Patient enquiries are also on the rise, as people begin to learn more about the many benefits DSD offers.

“My training has always focused on longevity and with DSD and good design comes a great understanding of biology and the risks and limitations of treatment. I sometimes see patients who have embarked on complex work without good planning or the opportunity to preview the end result before starting. Sometimes they’re very disappointed because they’ve invested a lot in a result that wasn’t realistic biologically and looks different to the outcome they expected. We just don’t have that issue with Digital Smile Design.

“Long-lasting dentistry has been a cornerstone of my practice over the last 30 years and this goes hand in hand with DSD.”

For Andrea, the most rewarding part of using the technology is creating life-changing transformations that look completely natural.

“No smile is the same. My tooth wear work is particularly satisfying - seeing a damaged mouth transformed and confidence restored.

“Every day I experience a shared joy with patients who love their new smiles.”