Meet Melbourne dentist Lauren Fowler, recently named the world’s youngest Digital Smile Design Master. By Clea Sherman
Dr Lauren Fowler admits she loved going to the dentist as a child. Having an excellent family practitioner meant she always had a positive experience. This combined with her love of meeting and helping people is what inspired her to channel her love of STEM subjects into a career perfecting smiles.
“I knew from about mid-way through year 11 that I wanted to be a dentist,” says the 28-year-old, who now splits her time between working at the family-friendly Hampton Dental Surgery in Melbourne’s Hampton and the Bond Street Malo Clinic in South Yarra, which focuses on cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry.
As well as spreading her talents between cosmetic dentistry, pediatric dentistry and dental surgery, Dr Fowler recently achieved the distinguished title of world’s youngest Master of Digital Smile Design. The award was presented to her by Dr Christian Coachman, who is the founder of this technology and himself a qualified dentist and dental technician.
A game-changing customer experience
The introduction of Digital Smile Design (DSD) has revolutionised the way dentists prepare patients for cosmetic and rehabilitative procedures. The technology uses photography, 3-dimensional digital scans and augmented reality to produce accurate depictions of what a patient might look like after their crown and bridge, veneer or tooth replacement procedures.
DSD starts with a consultation. “First up, I have a lengthy chat with the patient and our treatment coordinator about what brought the patient to our clinic, what they want to achieve and why they want the change,” explains Dr Fowler. “It’s important this initial discussion doesn’t take place in the dental surgery, but in a non-threatening environment. From there, we move to the surgery for a comprehensive examination. All possible treatment options are considered before creating their 2D or 3D mock-up.”
“Digital Smile Design makes the informed consent process easier and helps the dentist guide the patient through discussions about treatment options, the steps and the costs involved.”
Dr Lauren Fowler, Master, Digital Smile Design
When they access DSD as part of their consultation, patients can see a digitally altered photo of their smile, showing what their results will look like. The design is facially driven and can be completed in-house using the DSD app or sent to the DSD planning centre.
In addition, clinics using the technology can quickly order 3D printed prototypes. These lightweight ‘shells’ sit over a patient’s current teeth to give an accurate impression of the outcome of their new smile procedure. When the patient and practitioner are happy with the 3D design, the teeth are prepared and the design is used to mill the final monolithic zirconia restorations.
Once the patient sees a visual representation of their new smile, they are able to engage emotionally with the potential outcome. “Digital Smile Design makes the informed consent process easier and helps the dentist guide the patient through discussions about treatment options, the steps and the costs involved,” says Dr Fowler. “Patients can see and understand the endpoint, rather than feeling overwhelmed with information.”
Becoming a Master
After being introduced to Digital Smile Design and seeing its benefits for patients and practitioners, Dr Fowler realised the title of ‘Youngest Master’ was in her sights. However, she had to prove her abilities first.
Master Digital Smile Designers must work with DSD for several years and achieve a certain level of quality. “Once you have built a repertoire of cases and believe your skills are up to scratch, you can submit evidence to Christian Coachman for assessment,” explains Dr Fowler, who also completed a DSD residency in New York City.
Dr Fowler received her award from Dr Coachman and now wears her coveted DSD pin with pride. She was also invited to present, alongside Dr Coachman, to dentists at a recent DSD conference in Melbourne.
“It is often an emotional moment when the patient realises we can help them reach their dream of a beautiful, natural, confident smile.”
Dr Lauren Fowler, Master, Digital Smile Design
Not content to rest on her laurels, the young dentist continues to collaborate with DSD practitioners from around the world. A WhatsApp group of residency alum regularly shares designs and ideas. “We have specialists and general dentists all over the world coming together to discuss our cases.”
DSD has customers smiling
The patients who come to the Bond Street Malo Clinic for cosmetic dentistry do so for a number of reasons, including congenital issues, caries, periodontal disease and bruxism. Thanks to the simplified process, “patients are now requesting Digital Smile Design when they come in”, says Dr Fowler.
She finds the main benefit for patients is the removal of the unknown. “If people aren’t sure of what can be done for them, or if they are nervous about committing to extensive treatment, we present them with their ‘smile test-drive’ photos or 3D mock-up shells. It is often an emotional moment when the patient realises we can help them reach their dream of a beautiful, natural, confident smile.”
The future of smiles
Right now, the team at Bond Street Malo Clinic and other practices which offer Digital Smile Design can share 2D designs for cosmetic applications within as little as 15 minutes.
Later this year, the DSD app will include a new feature: a 3D facial scanner that virtually puts the custom design right onto the patient’s face. “It’s really impressive technology. The patient will be able to scroll around and see their new smile in 3D, from all angles,” says Dr Fowler.
While Digital Smile Design is primarily used for crowns and veneer treatment planning, Dr Fowler is looking forward to seeing it become a routine part of surgical treatment planning, including for implants and All-on-4 rehabilitation.
Digital Smile Design plays a big role in her goal, which is primarily to help patients and create positive dental experiences.
“Your smile is everything,” she says. “It never ceases to amaze me when patients walk through the door, beaming with confidence, and say that we have truly changed their lives. It gets me really excited to see what the next technological advances will allow us to achieve, and gives me confidence that I am offering them the most comprehensive level of care possible.”
View Dr Fowler’s DSD cases on Instagram @drlaurenfowler