Digital Smile Design — the next step on your patient journey

by Blog, Communications

Digital Smile Design — the next step on your patient journey    By Sarah Farrier. October 26, 2016.

Just like digital technology transformed the way we buy things, how we exercise and how we travel, a new technique in dentistry called Digital Smile Design (DSD) is transforming the patient journey.

Patients using it report higher satisfaction but we wanted to talk to someone providing it to get their feedback. Arden House Dental in Cheltenham is one of the few practices in the UK to embrace DSD, so we asked the owner Sarah Farrier how it works, what it’s like to use and what her patients think about it.

“The founder of DSD, Christian Coachman, trained as a lab technician before graduating in dentistry and that got him looking at things differently. He was able to bring a fresh perspective to the workflow between surgery and lab and worked alongside an architect to begin designing a new process. From the initial patient consultation to the finished treatment, DSD clarifies things for the patient and the practitioner.

The video on our website explains the context of this shift in thinking better than I ever could. It’s relevant to all types of dentistry; it’s a planning tool and enables an integrated approach as opposed to dental care being a never ending series of reactive and isolated jobs; a crown here, a filling there, perhaps some straightening or teeth whitening here… (I think we’ve all been guilty of this in the past.)

DSD might not be right for everyone. Following a consultation and a discussion with the patient about their goals and wishes we would then introduce and explain to them the DSD concept if it helps us achieve their wishes and realise their expectations.

If a patient is keen, we’ll explain they need another appointment where we’ll take photos and video of them, with the reassurance that it’s not what they say in the video that matters — we don’t use the sound! Impressions are taken along with measurements and of course a discussion about what they want to achieve in their smile.

I’ll then go away and do some homework, using Keynote and careful analysis based on years of experience about what makes for the “perfect” smile, to generate a storyboard for the patient. I’ll work closely with any other specialists we need to give the patient the most accurate information and suitable treatment options. I’ll share the storyboard, along with all the measurements I’ve calibrated, with the laboratory and they’ll wax up, based on my prescription, the new teeth shape and position which I think will work best in the context of the patient’s face and mouth.

The patient’s second visit is deemed their Trial Smile. Wherever possible the new smile is tried in the patient’s mouth and further images are taken to share with them, alongside at least one detailed treatment plan and associated costs, whether that includes orthodontic work, implants, dentures or veneers etc. It’s not a case of showing a patient some wax on a model, asking them to imagine it and not being sure how to achieve it all.

The DSD process is carried out with great accuracy. In days gone by the laboratory, even with photos, could not be sure how their design was going to fit into the patient’s mouth. They simply couldn’t know where the lip sits, how much tooth is shown, or whether the teeth are level with the eyes. 

We haven’t had a case yet where a patient has said they didn’t like what they saw but the beauty of DSD is that if they did, we haven’t done anything yet! DSD is a wonderful communication tool and gives me a really clear way of discussing the proposed treatment so the patient stays in control.”


“DSD is a wonderful communication tool”

Sarah Farrier, principal dentist at Arden House Dental

Author: Guest