I have not posted on Ignite in a long time (months, which feels like eternities to me). This is because I was infinitely busy with a quickly changing life (more on that soon). But, in the last week, in the midst of an abruptly changing life, I just happened to have a life changing moment. Yes, my head is spinning.
So, where have I been? I bought a practice. Well, actually, I started a practice from scratch. But the clicking of words on a keyboard have been calling to me. I am not myself if I am not writing. So yes, I am back. And I will soon post an update about the life changing act of starting a dental practice from scratch.
But for now…
Last week, I left my newborn of a practice for four days to hop over the Atlantic ocean for a truly humbling experience. I had the amazing opportunity to visit a dental manufacturing company, DMG. Last February was my first experience with DMG. You can find my blog about this experience here. That was a taste, but last week was a meal. Last week was a peek behind the curtain, a deep understanding which tells a story behind the products I use on a daily basis. I learned so much! And let me tell you, I will never see those products the same way again.
DMG, a company that stands for Dental Milestones Guaranteed, is on brand in more ways than its name. Innovation really is what drives the company. DMG was started in 1963 mere miles from where it still stands today, larger with a wider spread, but still made of the same values as over 50 years ago. The founder, Ernst Mühlbauer, signed the papers for the company and then rushed to the hospital to hold his newborn son. His luck unbelievable because who can say that the two greatest accomplishments of one’s life share a birthday? He called the company DMG, or Dental Material-Gesellschaft. Meanwhile, half a world away in Englewood , New Jersey, another company called Zenith Dental formed roots in 1982. The two companies began to collaborate and innovate together. In 2008, Zenith rebranded as DMG America. Two branches of the same passion for high quality dental care now lead the charge on so many dental fronts. And history is at the heart of who they are.
That newborn son of Ernst Mühlbauer’s grew up to be Dr. Wolfgang Mühlbauer, a noted chemist and now leader of the same company which was started on the day he was born. Both DMG and DMG America are run by the two sons of the founders, still friends, still passionate about dentistry, still unwavering in quality. The story is a testament to how DMG Is run: family, passion, values which hold steadfast as innovation drives change forward.
DMG is sold in 90 countries. All of the products are designed, manufactured and quality controlled in Hamburg, Germany, on the very campus on which I spent four days. And viewing the campus is a great way for us to see exactly what quality means to them.
We entered the large white building, nondescript but for a proud and simply stated DMG sign on the corner. It was German architecture: clean lines, sturdy, functional. Dr. Felix would later tell me on a tour, “the average home in Germany is made to survive over 100 years. We make buildings which are meant to last.” Their buildings and their products seem to follow the same philosophy.
We walked in and the first stop was to don protective gear. They take rules and cleanliness very seriously. It shows in the quality of products they make. Pictures were not allowed. I put my cell phone and coat in a locker, put sterile booties on my stiletto heels and donned my lunch lady cap with pride And then we started the tour.
Our first stop was the milling room, clad in white, neat and clean. It contained large roller drums with ceramic balls inside of them. This was step one. Here, pure, high quality strontium imported in from Russia was smashed with ceramic balls covered in white residual dust to create the resin which would become our composite. After the glass was processed, Dr. Felix Wöhrle explained to us, DMG used sieves thinner than human hair to sort the glass into the nano particles we needed for dentistry.
Dr. Felix, who gave us the tour and who quickly became a friend, was one of my favorite people I met in Germany. When he speaks of DMG and of dental materials, his eyes light up. On the last day, as we wove through flea markets and toured the harbor on a public transit ferry, his passion for his city and his work became contagious. He speaks of the products as familiarly as he would of his family. There is no question our group asked that he could not answer. His passion and knowledge is a great pulse point of the entire team, all 370 employees in Germany and 90 more worldwide. Everyone loves DMG and dentistry this way, with shining eyes and familiarity. It draws you in. It makes you love dentistry more.
Dr. Felix explained how little is wasted at DMG, how every piece of the manufacturing puzzle has a place. He explained how tightly the standards are regulated. But more importantly, he explained why. He told us the thin sieves were important because ideal composites need to be smaller than 1 micron. At this size, they polish well. The light is not refracted through them and they stay glossy. As a dentist who uses them every day, I know DMG leads the market in esthetic products. But now, I knew why.
He explained that larger particles were not discarded. They could be used for core buildup materials such as my beloved Luxacore. With larger 50 micron fillers, they did not need to maintain a gloss as they would live under a beautiful crown. But with the larger filler material, they could replicate the feeling of cutting dentin when prepping a crown. I knew I loved Luxacore, that doing crowns without it felt unfamiliar and awkward. But now, I knew why.
THE QUALITY OF THE PRODUCTS
This “knowing why” is exactly what was so revolutionary about that tour. We as dentists use so many products, almost as if muscle memory. We fall in love with products and prefer ones over others. We use them routinely, without thinking, innately and completely. We eye the cabinets as we pass, ensuring we never run out. But I for one, never thought about an army of people across the ocean who pour energy and heart into the smallest details, ones I would never think of, to earn my love and my use.
We walked through room after room, some with towering ceilings and mixers which stood a story high (dually labeled with bar codes so that catalyst never touched base), some with large orange filters on the windows which filtered out blue light so the composite could be mixed and packed without curing (which made you blink blue dots). And what was constant from room to room was a dedication to precision, an eye for detail, and a force which powered dentistry forward.
We saw large scales which were so precise that you could stand on them, draw in a breath of air, and see the numbers change accordingly. We saw intricate machines built by a DMG subset team because no machine found on the open market could do the work at the standard at which DMG required (I learned 50% of the machines used in the building were made from scratch and 80% had some kind of internal modification to be optimal). We saw vials of liquid which were bought and then further distilled to reach 99.99% purity through arduous processes which took days all so the composite veneer on my patient would not discolor over time. We saw machines which took an entire day to roll out one batch of Luxatemp against ceramic rollers, just to optimize the quality further. We saw machines that pre-pre bled (yup, that is not a typo) cartridges so that our first experience with their materials was optimal, so that every ounce of material represented the quality that they strived for. We saw that not only did DMG optimize the filling process to minimize air bubbles but then implemented checks and balances to weed out small air bubble cartridges before they ever reached us. We saw that those cartridges were then x-rayed so DMG could learn more about the process. Being perfectionists was not enough for them. Perfecting perfection is what they aimed for. We saw that invisible process which helped us provide the dentistry we had become accustomed to. We saw the superpower behind our own. We saw that which made us what we were so proud to be.
So, thank you to DMG. Thank you for allowing me to peek behind the curtain and for teaching me about the profession I love. Thank you for your unyielding commitment to quality and your attention to details. Thank you for incredible conversations and helping the world become smaller and more connected as dentists from across the globe united at your table to share their passion. Thank you for what you do.