Education evolution

Digital EstheticsDental Lab Products-2011-04-01
Issue 4

There are few in the dental industry who appreciate the tension between hands-on and digital better than today’s lab technician. Certainly dentists and their teams are faced with integrating new technology into the front office and operatory, but by and large, the dentist doesn’t suffer from the “go digital or go obsolete” fears that plague many in the lab industry.

There are few in the dental industry who appreciate the tension between hands-on and digital better than today’s lab technician. Certainly dentists and their teams are faced with integrating new technology into the front office and operatory, but by and large, the dentist doesn’t suffer from the “go digital or go obsolete” fears that plague many in the lab industry.

For this reason, dental lab technicians are in a position to uniquely appreciate the way that continuing education for the profession is constantly evolving to provide a healthier mix of both hands-on and digital options, and how that benefits us all in keeping lab techs up-to-date on not just the features of recent innovations, but how certain products feel benchside.

Class is in session – anywhere you want

Tradeshows have long been a part of the professional experience. Places to network, scout new products, and hear speakers hold forth on a variety of topics, the “annual meeting” will continue to have its place in the way lab technicians plan education. However, with the costs associated with reduced production because of time outside the lab as well as travel to the conference itself, getting away-even for a weekend-can seem like a big sacrifice. In the meantime, numerous lecturers at these shows hold forth on the benefits of digital, but might not always mention just how digital could be changing the lecture itself.

The beauty of the Internet and the high-speed connectivity many of us now enjoy (and depend upon), means that the headache of “getting to the show,” is now optional. In many cases, the best parts of the show will come to you-and we’re not just talking “virtual” meetings. Webinars have become an easy way to bring some of the biggest names in the profession and some of the most trend-setting topics right to your desk-or couch as the case may be.

Typically an hour in length and offered by a variety of providers, webinars can be viewed live, but showcase their true value when available “On Demand.” Much like your DVR allows you to watch your favorite shows any time (not just when they air), the On Demand webinar allows you to pause, go back, forward the link to a colleague or team member, and introduce important concepts to new team members in a comprehensive way instead of just recapping an important lecture from six months ago.
Here is just a sampling of the various webinar options available to you right now.


3M ESPE manufactures more than 2,000 products and services designed to help dental professionals improve the oral health of their patients. Through its Espertise portal online, it provides education on those products from respected KOLs. The following is a quick interview with Karen Sullivan, U.S. Marketing Communications Manager.

What made you decide that entering the realm of digital education was an important step?

“Digital” and “Online” have become ubiquitous. People are accessing the Internet in their homes, at their offices, and even while traveling via mobile and tablet technologies. Taking continuing education online was a natural evolution of the printed and hands-on CE that we’ve offered for years. It’s about making quality CE easily accessible to all dental professionals.

In creating your digital offering, what primary needs did you hope to meet?

We knew it needed to be easily accessible and very visual wherever possible. Incorporating video into the process is certainly key, as is making sure all the CE offerings are available in one location on our site. This makes it easier to bookmark one destination.

What do you feel sets your online CE apart from others in the field?

There are many companies in this industry that are doing a nice job with continuing education. What we’re doing at 3M ESPE is listening to customers to find out what they want to learn more about and then going out and finding top clinicians who are willing to help provide CE programming that meets those interests. It’s all about listening to the customer.

In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of online education versus traditional live courses?

There are certainly advantages to both approaches, and both really are needed. Specific to online education advantages, though, in a word: access. We’re a global organization, and we have customers all around the world. The only way to offer 24/7 access to our CE to any dental professional in any country is via our website. There are no limitations on the amount of people who can access the content at one time.

What do you see as the next step in advancing the popularity of online CE?

Continuing to offer more content in more areas will be one way of popularizing it further. Working it into the overall communications of the organization could be another. We announce our CE offerings through traditional and social media outlets, as well as internal customer communications. Once dental professionals discover the site and see how much it has to offer, that is an incentive to keep coming back. Continuing to advance the amount and types of content will drive repeat visitors.

Where can our readers go to find more information about the education archived or upcoming on your site?

Dental professionals can visit

Whip Mix Corp.

Whip Mix products cover a range of lab needs, including investments, gypsums, occlusion, equipment, furnaces and more. These products are distributed worldwide through more than 400 dealers. The company offers a variety of webinars on specific products as well as lab management strategies. All webinars are NBC approved for 1 CE Credit. To obtain credit you must take a CE test. The following is a quick interview with John Hughes, Marketing Manager for Whip Mix.

Why was entering the realm of digital education an important step?

Continuing Education has always been a top priority for Whip Mix because we have found so many technicians today learn on the job, they are starved for any formalized training. The fact that we have implemented digital components to our educational program was necessary because of the age we live in. More and more people turn to the Web for information, because it’s more convenient. Besides having dozens of instructional videos on our website we also have recordings of our past educational webinars. This gives technicians an opportunity to learn on their own time, and at their own pace. You also can reach a much larger audience by going digital.

In creating your digital offering, what primary needs did you hope to meet?

We saw a need to help educate our customers in proper technique. Better trained customers have fewer problems and less rework. We have found that the majority of technical issues customers have with our products are due to improper technique.

What do you feel sets your online CE apart from others in the field?

We have a lot of knowledge here at Whip Mix, we currently have seven CDTs on our staff. Our core competency is very broad in that our product line is so vast. Besides being experts in all traditional lab products we have expanded into CAD/CAM and in-house milling of zirconia and titanium abutments, copings and bars. Besides our expertise I think we are different in that a lot of others charge for their webinar programs. Ours are free.

In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of online education versus traditional live courses?

The convenience factor is a big plus. Programs are short, and people can view the program from their own home or office. We also have the benefit of being able to reach so many more people. Traditional courses can only accommodate a limited amount of people where as an online program can be attended by hundreds or even thousands. Online courses are  much more cost effective.

What do you see as the next step in advancing the popularity of online CE?

I don’t know of any one step. As more and more digital venues become available they will become more popular. This is the digital age and as new technicians enter the field they are more likely to be computer savvy and comfortable with online learning. I do think it’s important, however, to promote learning opportunities in as many ways possible i.e., website, Facebook, Twitter, Dental Forums, e-blasts, and traditional print.

Where can our readers go to find more information about the education archived or upcoming on your site? has a schedule of upcoming webinars as well as archived webinars right on the homepage. All are good for CDT credit. In addition we have videos and technical tips housed in our Technical Resource Library.


BEGO USA is a pioneer and leader in laboratory-focused online education. The Morn’n Perk Webinar series was developed several years ago by BEGO USA to augment traditional hands-on training. Morn’n Perk offers technicians and students an opportunity to learn new techniques or refresh technical skills based on an extensive library of on-demand courses ranging from pressable ceramics, removable partials, ceramics, crown and bridge, milling and even marketing. Martin Schmid, CDT/Trainer, provides insightful step-by-step instruction.

BEGO USA also offers an online forum where technicians can ask questions and discuss each Morn’n Perk course.

Morn’n Perk is convenient and affordable. Anyone with a computer and Internet connection can watch on-demand 24/7 for $19 and 1 CDT credit.

Watching is easy. Simply log on to BEGO’s website, and click Morn’n Perk.

Nobel Biocare

A leader in digital dentistry solutions for labs, Nobel Biocare is just as invested in showing leadership on the education front. The company offers a suite of free training and educational material to its customers, the dental community and students via its site on iTunes U. Located in the “Beyond Campus” section of iTunes U, Nobel Biocare’s online training and education program provides easy, state-of-the-art on-demand e-learning. Users can search and download training and education material directly from the site, and then use it on their Mac or PC, or sync with iPod or iPhone to learn anywhere, anytime.

For a Q&A with Nobel Biocare about other educational opportunities, click here. 

PTC Dental

Committed to training dental lab professionals, PTC Dental offers a wide range of not only e-learning opportunities, but also books and hands-on courses. The digital side of the business includes online training courses focused on anatomy. These can be between 20 minutes and an hour, vary in price, and can garner a lab technician anywhere from 3 to 8 CE credits. The site,, also features multimedia training modules that labs can buy. These include multimedia course materials with matching digital video demonstrations on DVD.

or a full Q&A about digital learning with PTC Dental President Jim Mahan, CDT, click here.

Beyond the brochure – welcome to the company classroom

Another poor dynamic facilitated by the typical tradeshow model is the focus on the transactional nature of the relationship between dental companies and dental labs. Yes, as manufacturers, the companies make products they hope to sell to dental professionals-but that is only part of the story. As manufacturers, they make products. Period. End of sentence. As the makers of these products, they often have vast amounts of knowledge about the science and process behind the merchandise, but are very rarely viewed as a good resource for this information. Why? Because of the sale.

The assumption is the company will say anything to make the sale. And, cordoned away in the “exhibit hall” where the emphasis is on promotional pricing, free samples and huge signage, it’s easy to understand where that assumption comes from.

Rather than remain on the edges of the educational forum, many manufacturers are choosing to jump in. While it is important to go in ready to ask good questions and be sensible about separating marketing from valuable information, manufacturer events provide very compelling hands-on opportunities and should not be ignored.  

The following manufacturer-driven events cover a range of opportunities and topics.

Zahn Dental, a div. of Henry Schein

Known for its partnerships with some of the most innovative companies in the dental lab industry, Zahn Dental is a distributor that does not sit content with just making merchandise available. The Zahn Expo, which rotates coasts each year, is a conference designed to cover every aspect of your laboratory, inspiring you to meet today’s industry challenges. Zahn Dental is committed to helping you achieve greater productivity and profitability by providing you with creative business solutions, an expanded portfolio of innovative products, and the continuous support and guidance that is vital to your laboratory’s success.What this means for an event is not just quality time in the exhibit hall, but also hands-on workshops and seminars that allow room for you to hear about the results behind the hype and see for yourself what a product can do for you, the dentists you work with and the patients they serve.

Zahn also offers many other educational opportunities, including hands-on courses as well as basic and advanced training for Dental Wings. For a complete listing of all education classes offered, visit

Jensen Dental

Over the past 35 years, Jensen Dental has grown from an alloy company into a comprehensive provider of quality products, systems, education and services across the entire spectrum of the dental lab industry, including a digital solution. Jensen has a reputation for providing world-class education including Jensen Education Day during the Chicago Midwinter meeting, tradeshows, hands-on courses and online webinars.

In addition to traditional hands-on courses for Creation Porcelain and Authentic Pressable All-Ceramic System, Jensen offers numerous online webinars, both live and recorded, covering a range of topics such as Alloy, Porcelain, Refining, Infection Control and more. These online programs provide customers with regular access to relevant and convenient education in the comforts of their lab. The cost to attend a live webinar is $29.95, which includes access to the recorded session to share with colleagues in their lab.

To view a calendar of Jensen’s upcoming tradeshows, webinars and hands-on courses visit For a Q&A with Jensen Dental VP of Marketing Joe Carofano about the company’s educational offerings click here.

DENTSPLY Prosthetics

DENTSPLY Prosthetics introduced the ProficienCESM Platform for clinical and technical programs, designed to Build Your Business, Strengthen Your Relationships, and Improve Patient Care through Continuing Education. The following is a quick interview with Kimberly Violante, Marketing & Communications Manager for DENTSPLY Prosthetics.

How long have you been hosting and/or organizing your own live CE courses independent of tradeshows? 

For years, live CE programs have been an important part of DENTSPLY Ceramco, Trubyte and Austenal’s legacy.  Educational experiences help to explain technique, processes and procedures in a tangible and memorable way.  The more clearly customers understand how a product is to be used, the better the results they will have as an outcome. In the dental prosthetics arena, DENTSPLY seeks to help labs be more efficient, productive and cost competitive-“Lab SmarterSM”.  With more than 150 CDT approved courses currently available, education is an important way that DENTSPLY helps to equip lab customers to become more resourceful.

What were some of the main motivating factors in creating this different type of experience?

Lab technicians respond best to technical presentations, especially hands-on. If they can learn the special techniques through a hands-on experience, they can take that back to their lab and immediately become proficient. ProficienCESM Continuing Education was developed to help labs take that knowledge even further-to build their business; strengthen their relationships; and ultimately, improve patient care. How they can do this is through the ProficienCE process, which encompasses easy to follow instructions and support materials for planning, marketing and hosting a CE event. These tools are supported by internal sales, marketing, clinical and technical education teams for optimal results. 

How would you describe your company’s signature event?

The signature event is-from the invitation to the program materials-identifiably ProficienCE. This may either be a lecture where we support the dental laboratory, or one of the many technical presentations and hands-on classes offered. Ultimately we want to present relevant information that can be used by the participant to positively impact their business. 

What do you hope this experience provides for the dental laboratory professional?

Upon attending a ProficienCE education event, participants will gain knowledge, insights and experiences that will enhance their use of our products so they can derive optimal performance and greatest efficiencies from them.

How do you see this event meeting a need not currently filled by CE at traditional tradeshows?

ProficienCE programs are portable and timely. Available for qualified customers on the topic of their choice, timed when it is convenient to them, and at a location chosen to best represent them to their customers or staff.

What are dates of the next event (or events) and how can our readers go about getting more information for registration? 

For more information or to schedule a DENTSPLY laboratory technical and laboratory-co-sponsored clinical educational event, visit

DENTSPLY Prosthetics also is venturing to offer more on the digital side of things. Here, Violante answers a few questions on that side of the education spectrum…

In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of online education versus traditional live courses?

To date, we have enjoyed working with valued business partners (for example,, or Dentrek) to make rich content available to dental professionals. We have a long history with digital education. For example we pioneered the “First Wednesday” Women’s Study Club, which is an all online study club and the brainchild of our Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Linda C. Niessen, that enables dental professionals to access valuable education on demand. Digital education offers the lifetime learner a possibility of accessing information when and where needed, in an environment that is best suited to their learning. However, it’s an introduction in its current form, and our in-person courses and hands-on offerings are tremendously popular as well.

Where can our readers go to find more information about the education archived or upcoming on your site?

There’s some very exciting work being done in computer simulation that can enhance the richness of the education experience. In fact, the International Association of Dental Research meeting in San Diego (March 2011) devoted a special session to this topic. Adapting and optimizing ideas from other medical and virtual learning sciences will make digital education an exciting area to be over the next several years. Recognizing the importance of online education, among other advances, DENTSPLY Prosthetics has upgraded its website to enable hosting of rich content, as well as to enhance customer experiences.


3Shape is a globally operating hi-tech company specializing in the development of integrated hardware and software solutions for the creation, processing, analysis and management of high-quality 3D data. The company provides hands-on training through its 3Shape Academy. Offering professional training programs to users, partners and distributors with the aim of enhancing the benefits and value of the 3Shape solution, 3Shape Academy offers fixed training programs and the option to create a customized program to meet specific needs. An “event” training session doesn’t have to be in a regular class setting, but may be a 1-2 hour presentation of the 3Shape Dental System.

Different program levels include:

  • Basic Training Program for new users or users with limited experience (2 days)

  • Advanced Training Program for experienced users, (1 day)

  • Annual Release Training Program (experienced users, (1/2 - 1 day)

  • Basic Training for Partner and Distributor staff (2 days)

  • Annual Release Training for partners and distributors only (1 day)

  • Customized Training & Event Presentation Programs

The academy brings 3Shape closer to its users and allows them to offer feedback, as well as helps ensure their investment by refreshing their knowledge about 3Shape’s systems. The strong upgrade program enables customers to continuously receive new functionalities in system, while annual release training helps ensure they immediately become familiar with new functionalities.

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