Vhf pursues new avenues with dental practices

Germany-based company vhf, a leading manufacturer of milling machines and related CAM software, exhibited its products at exocad Insights 2022. At the event, Dental Tribune International had the opportunity to ask Sven Marquart, head of sales at vhf, about how digital solutions are changing the way laboratories and dental practices work together and what dental professionals can expect from vhf in the near future.

Mr Marquart, in the past, vhf has been a company for dental laboratories. However, for the last several years, dentists have played a larger role in terms of the fabrication workflow. How has vhf consequently been positioning itself in relation to dentists?
Historically speaking, vhf has focused on laboratories because CAD/CAM production used to be done by laboratories only. In my opinion, the greatest change occurred in 2017, when intra-oral scanners hit the market and then 3D printers. We experienced a kind of a revolution that made us focus neither on the laboratory nor on the dentist, but on the application.

There is a shift from the laboratory to practices through practice laboratories. Particularly in Europe, for example, we are seeing more and more of them. So as a company, it is our intention to get more involved with dental practices. However, we have observed that not every general practice is ready to do in-house production. So, there will always be laboratory cooperation, depending on the field of application. We believe in openness and create workflows that are as integrated and smooth as possible.

What feedback have you received from laboratories about dentists increasingly doing in-house production? Do they see it as a concerning development?
We are aware of these concerns, and I believe that laboratories understand that the future will be different. For them, it’s better to go digital and support their dentists in going digital instead of losing the dentist as a customer entirely. In 2017, everybody thought that it would be either in-house production or laboratory cooperation, but it’s not that black or white. Some dentists do smaller restorations in-house, but have other cases that are more complex or aesthetically challenging produced by laboratories.

Do you believe that education matters for a dentist in terms of customer success? When it comes to digital workflows, for example for complicated restorations, the better dentists understand the workflow and the product, the easier it is in the long term.
Definitely. I think that as a manufacturer it is our task to provide a system to the market that is easy to understand and that we need to help educate dentists. An important aspect of education is expectation management: we have to tell dentists exactly what is possible with the product and what is not, and what effort is required. The workflow is not as simple as some manufacturers promise. Scanning, designing, milling and post-processing take time and effort. Some practices are mastering this for simple restorations, while it is not possible for others.

In any case, dental technicians, are still needed and they will be needed in the future.

Dr Miguel Stanley held two sessions on vhf products at exocad Insights 2022. Can you comment a bit on the cooperation between vhf and Dr Stanley?
Dr Stanley was referred to us by Olaf Sauerbier, the CEO of VOCO, five years ago. He approached us because he needed a milling machine for a documentary by National Geographic in Uganda about how digital solutions can help people in remote areas. We were intrigued by the story and provided him with our R5 milling machine. Ever since, he has been absolutely convinced by our product because the simple in-house workflow helped him to gain profitability in his practice. Therefore, I like this cooperation very much. We didn’t ask him to collaborate with us; he tried our system and has been loving it.

Can you give an outlook on what vhf’s focus will be in the near future?
We are in continuous development and will be presenting new innovations at the International Dental Show next year. Right now, we are seeing a growing demand for dentures, because that’s an affordable solution for edentulous patients and we are collaborating, for example with VOCO. Just here at exocad Insights, we have announced our collaboration with Ivoclar for its Ivotion denture process. This enables dental professionals to digitally produce full-arch dentures in approximately 3 hours of milling time. We released the software and hardware components to enable this process on vhf machines. This is what digital means to me: an existing process becoming easier and more efficient by means of digital innovation.


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