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According to Howard, "We need a thousand more Von Grows". You'll agree once you hear how he's impacting the dental industry--all from his Provo, UT dental studio.
Von began working in the industry in 1995, at Dentech Dental Lab. He served a mission for his church in Santiago, Chile for 2 years. After that, he moved to Utah, and worked at Utah Valley Dental Lab for 3 years under the tutelage of Mark Willes, studying cosmetic dentistry, and full mouth rehabilitation. In 2006, he began to take a lot of continuing education. Early influences include: Matt Roberts, Naoki Aiba, Michel Magne, Russell DeVreugd, and Nondas Vlachopoulos. Today, he is the founder of the Dental Technicians Guild, owner of Dark Horse Dental Studio, and Damaged Goods. Son of a factory worker, proud father of 4, passionate about dental technology, but mostly the people in it. He is committed to raising the bar of Dental Technology.
von@DarkHorseDentalStudio.com / 801-653-3430
Howard: Hey, it is a huge honor today for me to be lecturing with really a rock star. You look like a rock star. Do you know what I mean? I think of myself as short, fat, bald, but you got all that hair going and those glasses. You’re making me look extra, extra homely today. Bill, I really I’m a big fan of you. I’m a huge fan of your Facebook group. Let me put this in perspective. When I got out of school in ‘87 and now it’s 2015, so that’s 20 years ago, there were 15000 labs and there were … a lot of dental schools had lab programs to teach people how to do lab work.
Then over the years, pretty much all those lab programs closed down. A lot of the lab work went to offshore China. We’ve now gone from about 15,000 labs to 7,500 labs and now then CAD/CAM came out and I think dental labs, especially high quality dental labs are … have been massive downward pressures on them and I think if dentistry loses having the lab man who knows as much or more than you do on any fixed or removable case, that’s not going to serve dentistry well at all.
A lot of these older dentists think, “Oh, they all went to China because it was cheap over there.” No. China is smart. If you take a dental impression and throw it out in the middle of Mongolia, how would anybody even know it’s a dental impression? China set up lab schools. When I lectured … when I went to the only dental university in Hong Kong, they had more students in their laboratory school than they did in their dental school.
Their dental school has got about 50 students and their lab had about 150 students and those big labs like modern dental and all that stuff they’re just so impressed that China is investing in the infrastructure of training the next generation of lab techs like you. Whereas America, they open up all these hygiene schools and that’s great. We all have hygienists and they are serving the sovereign profession well, but what happened to the lab techs?
We’re also and I see some of the cases where you see these implant cases All-On-Four and these implant cases and you can just tell that we need a 1,000 more Von Grows. What do you think of the state of this dental lab business?
Von Grow: I appreciate that. Thank you for that introduction. I certainly don’t consider myself a rock star, but I appreciate that very much. I agree with you. I think it’s a broken system here in the US. I would say this is, as much as the labs are closing their doors, the lab schools are disappearing as well. There isn’t a decent place now. Maybe there’s a couple out there that you would consider going to, but the honest truth of it is they are disappearing as well.
What is a guy … and you’re right. What is a guy or the independent lab owner or where do you go to get training? Where does the schooling come from nowadays? I’ve hired the people out of just the one year programs or the 10 … there’s a 10 month program school here in Utah that you can go to. Yeah, the training is just not there. The education is not there. Where do we go?
Howard: Von Grow, that has to be, that name either has to be German or German or German. Look at the German dental lab schools there. They are as serious as the dental schools.
Von Grow: They are. Absolutely. I have, there’s a bunch of guys in the dental technicians group that lived in Germany and for sure talking to them, they really have it together as far as their school program. It’s very serious and they are on the same level as a dentist. There is no, you know what I mean? There’s no dentist here and lab tech here. It’s pretty highly respected.
Howard: You know what, it’s interesting Americans, you walk around America for 52 years and all you hear is, “We’re number one. We’re number one.” I’m pretty sure the only thing America is number one in is self-esteem and confidence because you can’t compare Chrysler and GM and Ford to Mercedes and Volvo and Porsche. You look at … when I go to German, when I go to dental manufacturing companies in the United States and I go to dental manufacturing, when you go to Germany, you go walk through the Sirona plant or the [Kabel] plant or the [inaudible 00:05:30] plant. Holly molly. It’s like you think you’re in Star Wars.
They’ll have 30 or 60 men and women in white coats that are PhDs. Then you walk in American companies and it’s dirty, it’s chaos. They don’t employ any PhDs, but they have a call center with 30 to 60 people telemarketing, calling and signing deals. Americans know how to sell. That’s why they have the biggest economy. Germans don’t know anything about selling. They just know how to make it so good you’ll have to buy it and the Chinese motto is “We’ll just make it so cheap you’ll buy it anyway.”
We all need to learn from each other. I want you to go through some of the cases that I see on your group’s board show a serious misunderstanding between the dentist and what they are designing from an implant and fix the removable. Start with the All-On-Four that you see so many of them. Do you like that system? Do you think it’s clean, cleansable? Talk about cases in general.
Von Grow: I can say there is a division going on. I guess I could say that just to speak to what the topic that you’re … we talk about this in the group all the time. It’s just what’s being accepted is the industry standard on those things. There are some violations along with any product I think, especially with the All-On-Fours. It gets violated quite frequently. Meaning like the AP spread, how much you’re having Cantilever off of that back implant.
There’s a bunch of things there that get violated. We’re talking besides the aesthetics of the thing. The cleansability comes with just knowing how to make an appropriate, something that’s cleansable. How does it sit on the gum? What kind of … how are you having that? I guess what I’m trying to say is you can argue, there’s always arguments on both sides as to what’s acceptable. I think that comes from the lack of education.
We talk about that all the time, things like that. Why is this acceptable? Why is this not acceptable? I guess what you see on a lot of forums on Facebook and other places as you say, you have all this, this guy coming out saying these are, this is how you do it. This is the standard and then these 10 people over here say no, it’s not because it’s not cleansable. It doesn’t look aesthetic. It doesn’t …really there’s just controversy everywhere. I just don’t see where you can go to find how it’s supposed to be appropriately done.
Howard: This is a very common problem in rich countries. The big, big billion dollar company tries to control the message and they’ve got big money and they’re controlling the message and the little people sitting there looking at this, they’re sitting there and thinking “What the hell? Be specific. Like when you say the AP spread, there’s going to be 5000 dental students listening to this thing and don’t even know what you’re talking about. Be more specific on the AP spread, the Cantilever, the cleansability.
Von Grow: Let me be honest with you in saying that the All-On-Four is not my forte, so I can’t speak a lot on the All-On-Four. If you’re going to talk specifically about All-On-Four, what I would do is go to my group and I would ask somebody that’s proficient and professional in the All-On-Four.
Howard: All-On-Four is the brand, but I’m just talking about when someone places four implants in a bar and a fixed removable. How could it be done better? How could it be done to where it was easier to clean? What I want you to do is, I want you to share your side of the equation because most all of my viewers are dentists. It’s probably 95, 98% dentists. A lot of the dentists, two things that dentists don’t realize they don’t have, lab people are afraid to talk to their dentist because if I give you $5000 a month in lab work, a lot of them are squeamish to say … they tell me privately, “I can’t call up Jim and say your preps are shitty and you don’t have enough reduction and I can barely read your impressions in your hack” because then he’ll get mad and he’ll go somewhere else.
They pretty much just eat the remix and not. Dentists don’t really have someone standing up to them. The staff doesn’t stand up to the doctor. The labs don’t stand up to the doctor. I’ve lectured for 25 years and staff will say, “Oh, will you talk about this?” I would say, “Well, why don’t you … what does your dentist say?” “Oh, if I asked him that question he’d fire me.” I’m like, “Wow, that’s just sad.” Have a man to man talk with the dentist. Have that conversation with the dentist that every lab tech, lab owner would love to have with their dentist so that they can literally get the truth.
Von Grow: Again, I don’t think I can specifically do that for an All-On-Four.
Howard: No, any lab work.
Von Grow: Okay. What’s the … you’d have to play the dentist then. Bring up a scenario because I don’t really know what exactly you are looking for. Do you want me to …?
Howard: How could a dentist work better with their lab? Because the dentist only sees their impressions. They only see their preps. You see a huge sample size. What do the better dentists do better that the worst dentists do worse?
Von Grow: That’s a great topic. I think that the first thing I would look for, in the first 5 minutes that I’m talking to a new client, I’m looking for that respect level. By respect level I don’t mean they think Von Grow is the awesomest thing in the world. I’m talking about the line doesn’t come up. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never … you know what I mean? I think it’s attitude. I think it’s attracting like-minded dentists and dental technicians to be associated with.
You are who you surround yourself with. If I’m talking to a dentist and immediately those flags are coming up, and by flags I mean he’s not talk … he’s talking. He’s not talking to me though. He’s talking to me as the lab industry as a whole or his viewpoint of what the lab industry is but he’s not talking to Von Grow nor is he interested in what I have to say. When he’s not listening to my suggestions, when we’re not really communicating, he’s just talking the talk.
He wants me to listen and to do exactly what he is saying, but he’s not interested in my expertise or what I would suggest or why. He just says, do it like this because … so that’s a major problem I see right off the bat and one I would … I’ve stopped people in the first few minutes and just said, “You know what, I don’t think this is going to be a good fit,” and just silence.
“What do you mean this isn’t going to be a good fit?” It’s like I can just tell already by the way you’re talking to me that this isn’t going to be a good fit. You’re not interested in working with me. You’d be surprised. That starts a conversation. That spins up to the beginning and puts us on a playing field different than what they might be used to.
Howard: I would say about half the dentists that you talk to, you can tell in 2 minutes that this person is not surrounded by anybody that tells this person no. You can just tell by their whole demeanor like wow, there’s no one in your life checking and balancing yourself. Wow, you’re just out there. It’s just me, me, me. It’s all about me. Humility again, when Harvard Business review studies the most successful companies, the CEOs, and the number one trait that’s the most consistent is humility. That’s why they listen to their staff, their customers, their lab man. How has CAD/CAM changed the lab business do you think?
Von Grow: A ton. If you let me speak to this for a minute I’ll …
Howard: Take your time. I’ve got you for an hour.
Von Grow: Great.
Howard: We’re only 13 minutes into this.
Von Grow: First of all … and I’m a talker too so I’ll try that. This is what happened to me. In 2013 I went to Lab Day Chicago and I had not been for 2 or 3 years. One of the main things when I got there is, I was blown away at … when I stepped onto the exhibit room floor for the first time, it was like the stock market exchange. “Hey, hey, over here. Hey, hey.” All these guys in suits and they had all these CAD/CAM machines. I mean rows and rows of CAD/CAM machines.
I knew about CAD. I had worked with one. I knew all about them, a lot of the CAD/CAM systems, but this time for the first time in 2013, is when I … it was taking over at this point. I talked to a few just to get an idea, I talked to a few people and they were, these guys were boasting that you would not need dental technicians anymore to run these, to have ... you buy one of these machines and it’s your go-to all. It’s your problem solver. It’s going to change your lab. It’s going to replace, you won’t need technicians.
They were basically, that was the message. That hit me so hard that year. That’s one of the things that prompted me to go back and start, do something about it because to me I thought, “You know what, so if a lab like me, the one that’s a two men lab, the message I’m getting is if we don’t buy a CAD/CAM system, we’re done. We’re toast. Absolutely that’s an issue going on right now and basically a lot of the one to two men labs which make up the majority of the industry, they can’t afford a $100,000 CAD/CAM machine or system.
They don’t, either that or they don’t know how to integrate it into what they are doing. They don’t know how to make it work for them and these big, huge companies they have the marketing dollars to just keep shoving this stuff down people’s throat and it’s not always the best solution for your business.
Howard: I am old enough to know that what used to upset a dentist and they’d send it back to the lab to make the lab remake it for free, when they make something far worse than that in their office themselves with their own CAD/CAM, it’s cemented every time. Would you agree with that?
Von Grow: I would agree with that and I would say that also they realize really quickly that they don’t want to be technicians. These people came in and they sold them a machine, but to sell it to them and to tell them this is the new thing you’ve got it. I think impulse buying and a lot of … they make it look really, really good and then the dentist will buy it and then they’ll realize really quickly that they don’t have time to be a dentist and a demo technician, so they end up using us anyway.
I’ve talked to so many dentists where their machine has been collecting dust for, since they bought it. Never used the thing. I used it a couple of times and then that’s it. I realized I still have to stain and glaze it. I have to color it right. I have to do add-ons. I have to do … the margins still aren’t correct. Never been able to get those correct. I’ve had my rep come out 100 times. It’s a big problem for a lot of people. I think a lot fewer people than we know have actually got it to work and work well for them on a consistent basis.
Howard: How many dentists have I seen where they use the schedule for an hour they come in, they would numb me up, they take the pressure, the temperate, then they prep the tooth, take an impression, make the temperate, be an hour and then the next hour they do that again and the next hour they do that again. In 3 hours, that’s $3000. Now they come in and they have the person there for 3 hours to make a $1000 crown and the dentist is in there doing all the scanning and milling and staining and glazing and it’s like, “Dude, are you crazy?”
That’s just crazy and then you say well, at least have your assistant do all that work and then for some reason like, “No, no. I’ve got to do all myself.” I’m like, “Well, you’re not Von Grow. You’re sending the impression of Von. You’re not going to make his. If you’re going to make it in your office, why do you have to make it if it’s in your little monkey cage, but you send the impression out?”
When I go … a lot of my friends, they’re in the $2 million to $4 million range by themselves. They are not making their own crowns. They are sending them to a lab. You’re up the street from Gordon Christensen. Gordy, he says he would never do that because he’s a prosthodontist and he would … he said, maybe for one unit, but when you’re doing multiple units, you’d never do that.
Von Grow: I think the confusion with where … like me and my group are concerned is people think that we’re against CAD/CAM and I don’t want to come across as that, that we’re against technology, nor are we trying to wish it away, but we are trying to say, “Look, be knowledgeable.” Still we need the human element. You can’t replace a human being with a machine. It’s just a tool. We use it like I use a hammer and a nail. Without me …they don’t make anything. They don’t do anything.
We have to get our hands on there, but don’t tell me that you can hire your 15 year old son that plays Halo and he’s pretty good at video games, to learn a software and start running your mailing department for you. That’s just ridiculous in my mind and I still think … posteriors also you can keep dividing it up. Posteriors in an hour might make sense if you’ve really dialed it in and that’s your business model, great and you’ve worked it out and those numbers work for you.
Anterior cases and matching special shades, that requires layering. It requires … somebody has to really know what they are doing to get there, but I feel like what’s happening are these conglomerate companies … what they are doing because their business model is to make money and I understand that and I’m not even hating on that. I’m saying though, what you’re going to compromise is the quality always.
You can’t span, you can’t scale that big and not lose some of the quality. What you can do is put all of your marketing dollars towards making everyone believe that that’s the new industry standard. Unless they believe that, you will have tons of business, but guys like us and guys fighting for the hand-made and saying no, you should customize.
You should really make that look like a tooth. You should … Instead of just mill, mill, mill as first as you can and try to sell and do it in three days instead of a week and it’s faster, better, cheaper, whatever you want to say, but I say you start to compromise things on the other end when that’s your business model. We need a voice also on the other side to say hey dentists, when you want this kind of work, this is where it is. It’s over here.
If you want that kind of work, you know where to go for that. I’m not even going to tell you. It’s showing up in your mail every day. They want your business, but it’s not necessarily happening on the hand crafted, the one to two male lab guys where they’re really working hard to layer these cases and make them look like teeth, because it’s an individual footprint. It’s Von Grow’s work. It’s not, you throw it onto a sea of technicians and you just … You don’t really know who’s making it. You just know in three days you get this product back. Yes it’s consistent because they’re milling it or whatever, but it doesn’t … It’s not your only option.
Howard: This is a hard assignment for you because there’s thousands of people listening to this from different countries, different … Some dental students, some 60 years old. What are the low hanging fruit problems dentists could do to work better with a lab like you? Feedback on maybe prop. I don’t think you could prep all the marks. Some dentists are doing heavy same first. Some are doing the shoulder. Some are doing the shoulder or the bevel. What’s some low hanging fruit takeaways pointers dentists could do better prep design?
Von Grow: I really think that it’s all in the case that you’re doing too and knowing your materials. Again that’s the communication that you have to have. If I’m doing an e.max case, those are different preps and my specialty what I do are foil veneers. I do minimal prep or prepless foil veneers. That’s my forte. I can speak all day to that or I do do e.max.
Howard: Let’s jump right into that because I guarantee you, 95% of the people that just heard you say that don’t even know what you’re talking about. Explain that. If that’s your forte, then take it away baby. Explain that from A to Z.
Von Grow: Yeah. I do a foil veneer technique and I learned it from Mark Willes who has a product called Durathin veneers and I no longer work with Mark in that, but I carry on the technique which is … Basically it’s a way to … It’s minimal restoration. Actual it’s really big in the industry right now is preserving natural tooth structure and all of that. What I do is it works really well with minimal prep like I said or completely prepless, which scares a lot of people because there's not a lot of people that are comfortable with doing prepless.
The cases that you look for … The case selection is critical, to get back to your point. What I would do, is you get a case in. You do the model work and then you evaluate the models and I would call you immediately to talk about the case. If we're doing a wax up, I would do a wax up, but to speak to your point, it’s the communication. I would talk to them about, sometimes it’s peg laterals.
Sometimes it’s first [inaudible 00:24:07] extraction that would a collapsed buccal corridor or … So a lot of times with these cases, you’re looking for just more tooth presence or some people just have small teeth. Some people have diastemas just naturally, but there’s no reason to reduce a bunch of tooth structure to just put it all back. With this technique that I’m doing, what you do is you take foils, actually platinum foil and you sledge it over the face, just the facial of the tooth and then what you do is you use that as a sub structure to build your veneer.
If you can imagine this, they can be made very, very thin like contact lens thin and in this way you can still, without making these big fat bulky, opaque looking veneers, you can make these look really beautiful and natural, because you’re dealing with this platinum foil it’s very, very thin, but what you do is as you layer, add these very, very thin wash layers of porcelain, you just are able to lift that foil substructure off and the foil can handle the temperatures in the oven.
You’re actually baking layers of this … On this foil and at the very end, the biggest challenge of the day is when you’re done with your veneer case for the day, you peel that platinum foil out and you’re left with just the veneer that you built and then you check that on the solid model and you send the case out. It’s really additive veneers only is basically what the prepless cases are. I’ve just done some amazing cases that way. It works really well for me and I know a lot of people are afraid to prep. They always ask “Well, Von, can I just scribe you a margin line?”
I would just be comfortable to finish to a margin line, and I tell them you know what, you can if you want, but to me it makes the veneer visible when you do that. Why scribe your mark? Why do you have to scribe your margin line? I’ve sat chairside at many … Dennis Wells is the person that we used to go and do out in Nashville, Tennessee, we used to go and do over the shoulder courses for him.
Howard: For who?
Von Grow: All the time and we’d go there. We’d make the case or Mark Willis would make the case and fly out there and we’d put them in in the patient’s mouth. If you have a skilled dentist putting these in and they’re not afraid to go and clean up and going with the … and study those margins in, he would challenge people at end of the case to sit down and try to find … with an explorer and try to find the margin line and he was so good at it.
Howard: Why don’t you find someone who’s really good at it and make an online hour long CE case to really explore this technique in your lab? Why don’t … Do you have some dentists that could do that?
Von Grow: Yeah, we could do that. Yeah, I’m open to doing that at any time. Anybody that wants to do a case study or … See, one thing I believe in is really building your business through your practice off of what you’re good at. I encourage everybody … I know again this a bit, but in the dental technician skill, that’s what I push. I say look, to survive this time in the industry, make a decision as to what kind of lab technician or what kind of dentist do you want to be.
What side do you want to be on? Do you want to be ... Do you want to specialize in something? Do you want to stay? Find out what you’re good at and be that guy. I’ll be this foil guy. I’ll make foil cases and I’ve kind of … I’ve established myself as that. I’m the guy that you can come to if you want this kind of a case. Am I wizard? Do I know everything about everything? Can I do …? No, but what I am good at I’m going to preach about and I’m going to have you … Sure, I mean I’m open to any kind of …
Howard: Shoot me an email when we’re done and say at firstname.lastname@example.org and say do you want to try a foil veneer case on your next veneer case? Because I’ve got one going right now with Jane. Write regarding Jane. You want to try this with Jane and I’ll send you the same out because that’s a classic case. I really hope you find a dentist to do it over the shoulder and film this where your lab makes … I call those courses dental porn.
I already want to see it just hearing you talk about it. I’m already dying to see it. An online CE is so cool when you’re watching it on a 60 inch plasma screen in surround sound. It really is amazing. What percent of your business are these foil veneers?
Von Grow: I’d say they’re about 50% to 60% of my business because that’s the way I try to build it, but I’m mostly all ceramics. The main things I do are e.max and then these foils, these feldspathic veneers on foil and they look beautiful. What’s nice about doing them as well is if they’re prepless, we’re not messing with the analytical function much. They say they’re feldspathic, they’re not as strong. What about the strength and all the set back?
A lot of times if those bite forces have been managed, we’re just veneering these teeth. We’re not trying to change anything that’s already natural about the way this person functions. That’s another great … and there’s many, many great benefits. Imagine you could tell a patient that you don’t have to drill on their teeth. We could possibly do your case with no anesthesia and no drilling on your teeth and they just … wow. It just … It’s a paradigm shift.
It really is to think this way as a dentist but if you were to climb on board this train, it will change the way you do everything and what I suggest … What we suggest usually is get it done on somebody in your office. One tooth, a couple of laterals, whatever they’re… If you find somebody that could use some of these ultra-thin veneers, the beauty if it too is the try-ins. Everything goes smoother. You’re not already prepped. You’re not panicked because I send you a set of these, you try them in and you haven’t done anything.
You haven’t done anything to the teeth. If they’re not what was expected or … You have chances to go back before you commit all the way and cement these things in. There’s many benefits to doing cases this way. Of course I’d be happy to work with you on a case and you can see for yourself.
Howard: Yeah. Like I said, I think creating an over the shoulder or online CE course on how to do these cases would just be amazing. What kind of porcelain are you building them up with?
Von Grow: I’m actually using GC porcelain right now. GC initial porcelain, I don’t know if you can see it back here. I’ve got a stack of them. I’m actually a key opinion leader for GC.
Howard: It says human organ for transplant.
Von Grow: It does say that. That’s my lunch box that my wife gave me.
Howard: Oh my god. I’m not going to ask which organ is in there.
Von Grow: Yeah, it gets some weird looks here and there but it’s fun.
Howard: For our viewers, GC stands for … It’s a big Japanese company, General Chemical. You might know it in America as GCC. I think they add an extra C in their headquarters here in Chicago. General Chemical out of Japan, but you said that’s half your business. What’s the other half?
Von Grow: It would be the E-Max, the all ceramic, but actually what just came out … GC just came out with a layering ceramic for lithium disilicate. Actually you can press your cores now out of a lithium disilicate and then then later with this new material called LISI, or they call it LISI. Anyway this brand new product just came out and everyone’s going crazy about it because for them if you’re already a GC user, it replaces E-Max ceram, so you’re now layering with this new GC product and they’ve tailored it just for lithium disilicate.
Howard: Talk about it. E.max is Ivoclar.
Von Grow: Yes.
Howard: This is GC, so obviously there’s competition. You’re saying that this is a … This is a competing product against Ivoclar’s e.max.
Von Grow: It is.
Howard: Explain the pros and cons because you do both. You use Ivoclar. You use GC. Explain that in more detail.
Von Grow: Mostly it just allows me to stay with the one system that I love. I don’t have to toggle back and forth between the two systems or try to switch, even though I … So I’m not going to say anything bad about e.max, but for me it’s convenience and also I think the other benefit is the LISI was made specifically for that, whereas the ceram has many uses. It can go on a bunch of different products.
This was made specifically for lithium disilicate. That speaks to the way it was made. It was formed for that specifically and I think that the products are as good as the person that’s making it, meaning whatever works best in your hands. I’ve seen porcelain that everyone says is horrible just look beautiful because this guy knows how to really work it. Speaking to my specific experience and I think it can be said best that is your only experience is the best experience.
Howard: I’ll put that into perspective. One of my idols and rock star role models is a female dentist in San Fran named Gigi and she loves removable. She loves it, but she takes her alginate material more serious than anybody I’ve ever met in my life, down for the way to refrigerate it, the way it’s measured, the way it’s mixed or whatever.
There are dentists in Japan who literally can take crown and bridge impressions with alginate, because … I was alluding to the fact that it doesn’t matter what system you use. It matters the artist. It doesn’t matter if the artist using oil or water color or whatever. When you’re an artist, you can do exquisite crown and bridge impressions with alginate. If you saw Gigi take her alginate impressions removable, it’ll blow your mind.
Von Grow: Howard, that’s exactly what I was speaking to with finding your niche. Pretty soon, if Gigi wanted to push herself out there, she would be the doctor for impression taking. She could really blow it up and be like wow. If you want to know about impressions taking, this is who you go to. She is that doctor.
Howard: You know what, that’s exactly what happens here. She’s a dentist and she got so good in removables, she quit doing everything else and all the local general dentists around her don’t want to do removables. Just give her her dentures and she’s the best and it’s word of mouth referral. It’s just amazing.
Von Grow: That really is the greatest part of what we do, is we can actually just capitalize on what, what are you the best at? If you don't know, find out. Find out what you’re the best at and just capitalize on it. Be that person.
Howard: Your dental studio is Dark Horse Dental Studio in Pleasant Grove, Utah, about five minutes away from Gordon in Provo. Have you ever met Gordon?
Von Grow: No, not in person.
Howard: Not in person. A good friend of mine for 30 years. He’s a great guy. Go by there and tell him some short, fat, bald dentist named Howard in Phoenix told you, you had to stop by. The brain behind Gordon is really is wife Rella, but you're known as the DTG guy. Explain what your DTG philosophy is.
Von Grow: Okay.
Howard: Does that D have something related to Dark Horse Dental Studio?
Von Grow: No. Actually nothing to do with that. The DTG is completely separate. It all came from that year I was talking about in 2013 when I went to that show. I came home from that and I could not settle my mind. Like I couldn’t sleep for a few nights after because I was thinking about the industry and I was really … A few things I would say, three things I took from that year, when I went there, I noticed the CAD/CAM thing of course was huge on my mind, but also there was just like … it just seemed like there was this downtrodden type … When I talked to a few different technicians, they were just worried about the future.
They were thinking about what’s going to happen to me if I don't conform to everything that's going on? I got these lab guys wanting to buy me out and I got … I just don't know what to do. I’m thinking of closing my doors. It’s just not working for me anymore. My clients are calling me, they're saying “Hey, can you do this for $5 cheaper, $10, $25 cheaper?” I just felt this overwhelming like this like I've got to like ... Maybe there’s something I could do.
Recently I had gotten involved on Facebook and what I started to do is I looked for forums to see where I could possibly start using this for my business, for Dark Horse and I found a couple of forums, but I thought man, there’s nothing that says I can't just start my own. I just started a few forums. One was … And I called them official because I’m like nobody can tell me that they’re not official. This is the official forum for press ceramic, official wax creations group, so people that are waxing, official foil and refractory grew and I just started these.
What I did was with my … In my newsfeed, when you’re friends with other technicians, when they post work, it comes up in your newsfeed. I took that and started sharing it onto these pages. Whatever they corresponded to I would share it. When I showed up that year in Chicago in 2013, these guys knew me on a first name basis. Never met me before, never … so another thing I realized that year was the power of social media and the Internet.
I had never met these guys and they were like “Von from Facebook, right?” I’m like “Yeah. Wow.” I was just so surprised. Another thing that happened is that on my badge I was wearing a damaged goods sticker and some of the top … I guess what you would call celebrity technicians, they asked me if they could have one and one in particular, his name is Jungo Endo, a very well-known oral design member, he said, “Oh, I love that.” He’s like, “Can I have one of those?” I gave it to him and he slaps it on his demonstration tray and he’s using it all day.
He’s opening it like this and using it and by the end of the day I was out of stickers. There was no more damaged goods stickers. The three things that I took from that was the power of social media. I come home from that Chicago meeting, the power social media. Damaged goods, everybody likes it for some reason and the CAD/CAM problem, my job, the future of the industry as we know it.
I went home and I thought about that for days. Finally what I did is I just wrote up a mission statement. I said I’m going to start a group on Facebook. It’s going to involve damaged goods and we’re going to talk about the future of the industry and that's how all the whole DTG started. I chose Dental Technicians Guild as the name of the group because back in the day guilds are who you went to, to get quality product, way back in the day.
What they would do is if you were an artist that made glass or metal or you were a carpenter, they got together in these guilds and you literally, if you wanted some nice windows, you have to go to these people and basically buy it from them and ask for them, for their expertise. I figured that’s perfect, because what I would like to do is gather as many like-minded technicians together as I can and together we can raise the bar of work in the dental industry and we can make what some people may view as unskilled labor, show them that that’s total crap, that we are skilled.
We can make cheese look like cheese. We're very interested in that. There’s no way we're going to let some business come by and take over our jobs just because you say you have some machines that can do it faster and cheaper than us. We're going to curve out that niche. We're going to fight for handmade. We’re going to care about what we're selling, what we're putting our personal fingerprint and our stamp on.
We’re going to care about that to the point where we're just going to refuse to be involved in this big wave that’s coming over us, which to me it's like these Walmart type companies are coming into town and they’re either buying up or they’re acquiring labs left and right. You're right, we are half the amount of labs that we were five years ago. That’s the statistic.
Howard: Half the amount five years ago? How many labs do you think there are now in the United States? How many lab techs are there?
Von Grow: I've heard the same as you, it's around 7,000, something like that, but they're saying that that's just going down every day, two to three labs a day or something. Going by the LMT surveys and things like that, but it's true. It’s on the decline. For me, I went, “Wow, we can either do something about this or we can just say well, nothing you can do. That’s technology. Well, that’s the future.” We have a choice.
Why are we doing? Why are we just complacent? There's something we could do about it. That’s what I'm trying to do is say, “You know what, when I get enough skilled technicians together, when we start talking, people are going to start listening, period.” They already have.
Howard: What are damaged goods? Why did you go with damaged goods?
Von Grow: A lot of people, they're apprehensive about seeing that. It's a skull and it's all this. Is it a cult? What I like to do is ask people, “What does damaged goods means to you? What does it mean to you when you see damaged goods?” I love the responses because they think about it for a minute. They go, “You know what? That’s interesting. I guess you could say that we’re damaged goods because nobody's perfect,” and I go “Great. I love that definition.”
Someone else will say, “Well, you know I feel like we’re damaged goods because the technicians now are having to fight to stay alive. Labs my size that aren’t huge and we’re not production labs, I'm frightened. I'm struggling every day. So I feel like damaged goods. I love it.”
Howard: What is the niche of a small independent lab today? What kind of cases are your low hanging fruit or what is the niche for the individual lab?
Von Grow: I can say handmade means like layered attention to detail. It depends on the case again. If you're doing a single central match, you have to know so much about your own products to be able to even start to match that single central if it has characterization, all T’s do.
Howard: What would you think if a dentist said to you, I’m going to buy CAD/CAM and I’ll be using it to make a single unit crown on number eight and I'll be milling veneers for upper 10 veneers? What would say to that person?
Von Grow: I'd say you better put blinders on the patients so that they ... I don't know, because there's no way you're going to do just with knowing that out of a monolithic block, make that look right, how it's supposed to look next to that number nine. That's what I’d say. I'd say not without a technician’s help or without some cut backs and some layering, some real attention to detail. That human element cannot be removed. I'm telling you that right now. I will take that you cannot take that human element out. When you do, it looks robotic. It’s not natural. We can’t start to think that way.
Howard: Are you doing any gold work?
Von Grow: No, I'm actually metal free. It’s not that I don’t believe in it. Just for my business model, it doesn’t make sense for me to be doing metal in my lab. If I had to do one for a special case that I was doing, I would outsource the metal part of it and then I would hand layer everything myself.
Howard: No, I mean someone to gold in layer or gold on layer whole ground?
Von Grow: I would outsource that to a trusted source. Me personally, I'm not casting in my lab. It's not because I don't believe in, anything gold is still great. There’s that debate to why would you ever put metal in your mouth? I don’t even want to go there because there’s significant arguments on both sides, but mostly to the… My understanding is that that’s a good restoration as it's ever been. Will hold it forever. I'm not against metal at all.
Howard: Now, if someone wanted to do run one of these ... I am sorry, what were you calling them, foil veneer cases, is that what you called them?
Von Grow: Yeah.
Howard: Foil veneer cases?
Von Grow: Yeah, let me show you this right now. This is a perfect example. This case has not been prepped at all. I don’t know if you can see this. I’ll try to get a good view of it.
Howard: You have to talk too because probably 80% of listeners are on iTunes.
Von Grow: This case is just ... I’m just showing it. It just has diastemas. This guy is 30 years old. He just has diastemas. His teeth are healthy. They are all vital, but as you can see there’s all these gaps in his teeth and this guy doesn’t smile. He goes like this. He laughs and he goes like this. This guy is 30 years old and what I'm saying, I can do with certain cases. Now, if he had teeth that were flared out like this, protrusive or really turned out teeth, prepless veneers aren’t going to work for a case like that.
We’re going to have to prep some off, but the method is that. This shiny gold is what you see. It almost looks like a grill. People say, you are making grills for rappers and stuff like that and it's funny, but they just don’t understand what I’m doing, but that’s the substructure. I sledge, that’s a case sledge and ready for porcelain application.
Howard: Have you posted some of these cases on Dental Town?
Von Grow: You know what, not on Dental Town. I have yet to really apply … I have focused so much time on the Facebook aspect of what I’m doing. I have not spent a lot of time on other forms, to be honest.
Howard: What is your Facebook … How do they find you on Facebook?
Von Grow: I have a Dark Horse Dental Studio Page on Facebook that shows a lot of these foil veneer cases.
Howard: Explain Dark Horse. Is that an old gambling betting term where you bet on the Dark Horse or where did that name come from?
Von Grow: It has a few meanings and maybe they are bordering on kind of shady. I don't know, but my understanding and the reason I named my lab that is I just really like that. It means the unexpected winner of the race. Like the horse that was behind or unexpected to win and then it take the cake at the end. That’s what I thought would be a cool meaning for anything, but also when you hear Dark Horse Dental Studio, it's a little bit harder to forget.
Howard: Your name is hard to forget. Von Grow. If you told me that was your name, I would say okay, that person must be a rock star and then when they see you, you look like a rock star.
Von Grow: I appreciate that.
Howard: Your Facebook will be Facebook.com/darkhorsedentalstudio?
Von Grow: Yeah. If you were to just type that into the search part, Dark Horse Dental Studio, it will come up. If you type in Dental Technicians Guild, you’ll find that come up. Then, we have … I don’t know how much you’re … if you’re going to get to the stop me, but Dental Technicians Guild online is getting a huge following because people are really interested in this concept and this philosophy of how to survive in this age or just how to better your work.
We actually have, it’s called Damaged Goods Unite DGT Affiliates page. This is a group that I had to create purely because there was so much interest. There’s 150 Dental Technicians Guild members and then there’s 16,000 now affiliate members and these are people that just want to get involved and do what we’re doing and be a part of the philosophy. For me, it's a place where people can use this platform to reach their highest potential.
What we’re doing is we invite people in and it’s really a sharing form is what it is. It’s sharing. Our philosophy is, if you share everything that you know, it will come back to you tenfold. You’ll learn more by sharing than you ever thought and would think imaginable. Not that many years ago Howard, it was so different. You had all these lab owners and dentists, whoever, they were just hoarding their secrets like, “No, if I share that, I won’t be able to teach my seminars anymore. If I share how I do that, it’s like this is …” They were so afraid or they did not want to …
Howard: We see that same phenomenon on Dental Town. These people say, “Well, if I put up an hour course on Dental Town, then no one will go to my lecture.” I tell them, “Dude, right now, no one even knows who you are. If you put up a course on Dental Town and then a lot of people will see that,” so it’s very counter intuitive.
The first guy in Dental Town that put an Endo course got booked 76 invitations to go speak on Endo because Adam, he went from, nobody knew who he was. Now he’s like, “Man, that was a great hour. I want to hear you all day.” We have a lot in common. We both have four kids and we both have a magazine. I have four boys 19, 21, 23, 26. Oh no. My baby just turned 20. 20, 22, 24, 26 now. How old are yours?
Von Grow: Mine are eight, six, five and three.
Howard: Oh my gosh. I have been there, done that. All boys, all girls, what do you got?
Von Grow: Three boys and the last one is a girl.
Howard: Oh my gosh. She’s going to be a little tom boy. She’s going to be a mini boy. If you got three older brothers, she’s going to be a hiking, mountain biking, boxing, but tell us about your magazine, DTG magazine because I think I saw … did I see the first issue of that? Who’s your friend in Glendale that came by?
Von Grow: That’s Arian Deutsch and his wife Muriel. That’s who you sat down with.
Howard: I love that couple. What a great couple.
Von Grow: They’re amazing. Arian, just a phenomenon. He’s a DTG member, so he had a copy in his house, I'm sure. He’s been featured in the magazine and he’s just amazing. I love him just like you do, but magazine started just like anything else. I said, “You know what? I'm going to go for a publication now.” I got this group. I'm going to do a publication. What I do Howard, is I fly by the seat of my pants, but try to control as much as I can.
I have an idea and I just say I'm doing it. I don't care that it’s not the industry norm, that these people over here laugh at me at first. I don't care anymore. I'll look right at the camera and say, “I don't really care. I'm going to do what I feel is right to do” and the magazine was one of those things.” I said, “You know what? This magazine, what could be unique about it, is this is could be a microphone for dental technicians everywhere and dentists as well.”
I can speak on that as well, but we have dentists inside the Dental Technicians Guild, which I think is amazing. I can’t … Why would you want to be in the Dental Technicians Guild if you’re a dentist? What they found out is I think is the more they know about our side and the more that the technicians know about the clinical side, you’re going to be better all round. They saw that and then once you get in and you get to know everybody, it just becomes this big family.
Howard: Is this a monthly magazine oar quarterly magazine or how …?
Von Grow: Quarterly. Every three months this comes out and what I do is I … we don't even have an editor. I don't edit any content. You send me anything short of corn or whatever, I will print it. Whatever you have to say, I don't care. I'm not a respecter of companies.
Howard: How much is that? How would a dentist subscribe to this?
Von Grow: You can go to www.dentaltechniciansguild.com and there’s the magazine subscription sign up is right there. It comes out four time a year. There’s both. You can get the print or the digital or you can get both.
Howard: How much is it?
Von Grow: I think right now it’s $90 for the bundle package if you want both. It’s $40 for the subscription, our online subscription I believe. The digital is $40 and both of them together are like $90 or something. $60 for just the print.
Howard: It's $40 to get four issues, so it's $10 an issue?
Von Grow: Yeah.
Howard: That’s exactly how Dental Town started. I started in 1999. Basically, my magazine started out a rejection. I would write up these amazing articles and send them to all the magazines and they'd all just get rejected and then I was at a convention one time and I finally thought, I said, “Are you going to be at this convention?” I think it was Chicago. She goes, “Yeah”.
I finally met up with them, then I realized, “Oh my God, these companies, there’s no dentist in the company. They’re not owned by dentists. They’re not ran by dentists and I'm getting my shit rejected by somebody who only goes to a dentist every six months to get their teeth cleaned.” I started my own magazine and I went with the Farran Report in 1994. It was $10 an issue. It was $120 a year and then ‘98 the internet came out, so I changed it to Dental Town because instead of me, one way it was digital, but that’s amazing. Would you recommend dentists subscribe to this or is this more lab techs?
Von Grow: I would absolutely suggest that dentists subscribe to that and that they also join us as a DTG affiliate. Just come online. You can’t even begin to imagine how your work will get better and better just by participating in these things.
Howard: You would be a good marketing for your magazine?
Von Grow: What's that?
Howard: Put sample articles in Dental Town and then at the bottom of it say, “If you’d like to subscribe to this magazine, go here,” because our magazine goes to 125,000 general dentists. All the general dentists who get this and they saw this great article and they build a brand of Damaged Goods. They’re going to see the concept, then at the bottom they can see your rock star face. If you’re listening to this on iTunes, you’ve got to go to the website to see what this guy look like. He has got the Justin Bieber hair going with the big black glasses. Are those teeth au naturale or those are…?
Von Grow: I actually made these of prepless foil veneers, my uppers. My lowers I still have.
Howard: You know what’s weird about my teeth is since … I'm only self-conscious I guess. Nobody will look at me and think I'm self-conscious or anything. I don’t do anything for appearance, but I've always though it’s weird that every picture I've ever been in, I don’t show any teeth. If I was a chiropractor or a pediatrician, I would never think about it again, but it does weird me out that I am in dentistry and in all my pictures, I look like I need dentures and I have no teeth.
I’m looking at your smile and that looks great. I think you should put on article in Dental Town because these viewers and bottom line, this is probably going to be listened to between Dental Town and YouTube and iTunes, maybe 3000 or 4000 people per issue out of the gate, but if this was in the magazine, it would hit 125,000 and then you can put a little sub deal to your website, who you are and all that stuff, but I really think what would be the most rocking hot thing you could do for your lab to explode it is find a dentist and do a case from A to Z, an over the shoulder deal about these foil veneers, because for an old guy like me, it’s a lost art because I heard about these in the ‘80s and then it went over and then it disappeared and went to stacked porcelain now it’s being CAD/CAM and all this stuff.
You're reviving a lot. Just like what's completely gone is the old dentist doing gold foils. When I got out of school the older guys, you go in their office, they’d prep a hole and they’d be mallet bam, bam, bam. They would just put these leaves of gold in the hole, yeah, exactly. I don’t think I’ve seen a live human do a gold foil since the year 2000. What a lost art because that gold is so high energy. It’s anti-bacteria. Gold foils have the most gaping margins and they last forever because [Inaudible 00:57:38] doesn’t want to live by the high gold foil. This is exciting that you are bringing back a technique …
Von Grow: It really is. I would never claim to have this technique be mine. Again, I have to give credit to Mark Willes is my mentor. He’s also here in Utah. He also, his product is called Durathin and he’s really … I worked for him for a long time and him and I pioneered this together, but it’s his product. I just want to be clear on that. I don’t have any proprietary interest there. I just use the technique, but you’re right. It’s a throwback.
It's something that should have never been buried, but these new products came along and all these companies. I’m just doing an old technique, but in today's world, I'm trying to do it better than it's ever been done.
Howard: What if a dentist wants … What if somebody listening to you right now, most of my viewers are, I always hear the same thing. Most of my viewers have an hour commute to work, my listeners and they tell me the same thing. They say, I live in a town of 3,000 and it's a 71 mile drive to a town of 10,000. Every day I drive 71 miles each way to work and I love podcasts. They have it on their smartphone, they plug in. Can these guys call you? Would you give away your phone number or do you recommend email? How does a viewer pull up in his office and talk to you?
Von Grow: Email is fine or phone. I'll give them both out. I’ve got nothing to hide. Again, the thing is, I'm not super concerned about scaling. I’m not really trying to blow up my lab. I'm happy with just putting Von Grow’s fingerprint on the work that I do. There might be a bit of a wait to work with me, but I'm two to three weeks out. My email address is just Von@darkhorsedentalstudio.com. Just Von@darkhorsedentalstudio.com
Howard: Is Von a name in Germany? Is that a word in Germany or is that just a name? Does Von meaning something?
Von Grow: it's interesting, it means from. Like a lot of royalty, it would be like somebody from somewhere, like Ludwig Von Beethoven. Von is just like a little connector name. It means from. Like this person from this place. That’s as far as I know about the name.
Howard: Okay, so you’re Von@darkhorsedentalstudio.com. Are you brave enough to give out your cell or your phone number?
Von Grow: I can give my work number out, yeah. No problem.
Howard: Okay. What's your work number?
Von Grow: The lab number is 801-653-3430.
Howard: Say it one more time.
Von Grow: 801-653-3430.
Howard: One of my viewers, I’ve made the pilgrimage to Provo a dozen times. I think I went 12 times just with Mike DiTolla, seeing Gordon’s two day courses. If some townie was going to Provo, could he stop by your office and you said you’re 10 miles away in Pleasant Grove?
Von Grow: Yeah. Give me a call beforehand just so I'm not naked or anything. I'm happy to see you, so sure.
Howard: Okay. Well done. Von, an amazing hour. I hope these people go to darkhorsedentalstudio.com and check out our work. I hope they go to your Facebook group, Dental Technicians Guild or Dark Horse Dental Studio. I hope you give us an article, a teaser out of your magazine and they can subscribe more. I had a business from ‘94 to 2000. No, ‘94 to ‘98 on a $10 a month deal. I loved it. It was commercial free, say whatever you want, tell like it is, but what I'm really most excited about, I really hope you find one of your dentist clients.
Again, these … Back when I was your age, a video camera of this quality of an iPhone would have been the size of a box and would have cost you 50,000. They say an iPhone camera quality in 1975 that they would have used for filming Wilford [Inaudible 01:01:55] on the news, that camera would have n been $175,000 to have the same quality as in your phone. I hope you figure it out. I hope you make a video. Von, thank you so much for spending an hour with me. I love what you’re doing. I love your mission. You’re a man with purpose and best of luck with those four kids.
Von Grow: Thank you, Howard. I approached it. We’re having a lot of fun with them. I appreciate the offer to do something with you guys. I'm sure we will. We definitely will put something in Dental Town. I thank you for all the generosity ever since I've been in contact with you. You’ve just shown a lot of … and it’s really neat to think of you 20 years ago, you said “Man, it just seems so reminiscent of what happened to me when I was starting Dental Town and all that.”
I really do look at that as, I have respect for the people that have paved ways before anyone else and I'm excited about that. I'm excited about the future. I don’t mean to paint this down picture. That’s what this is all about is being excited about what we do and bringing it back. Let’s bring the pride back.
Howard: Yeah. All throughout human history, it's as pendulum swinging lab to back, forward and right now there’s a big CAD/CAM surge. Now everybody is swallowing that big … like a snake swallowing a rabbit. I think now … in my office, we did far more CAD/CAM five years ago than we do today. As we really go into it, we started realizing, does this really make sense in all these different cases and time management?
Von Grow: That’s again the message is just that, Howard. It’s you decide what kind of a dentist you want to be. I feel like the line in the sand has been drawn. There’s no more middle of the road dentistry. You either are going to go down and fight it out in the cheap seats, the insurance, whatever. Some people have to do that. I'm not knocking that at all.
That’s a business model, but you don’t have to or you’re carving a niche for yourself up here. You’re capitalizing on what you’re good at. You’re being that persons and you’re going to survive just fine. You’ll be barely affected by what comes along because of the way you’ve marketed yourself and you enhance what you can do. You’ve worked ….
Howard: The other thing I always remind people that no matter what market you're in, sometimes a person in a market goes and eats two tacos at Taco Bell for a buck and sometimes that the same person will go to sit down in a Mexican restaurant. In my mouth, I have eight restorations inlays on crown. They're all gold because when you're a short, fat bald guy and you’re a dentist, I just want gold, but sometimes you might think you're in a PPO practice or a capitation practice, but in comes someone who values and just wants a Mercedes Benz or a 10 upper veneers and I just tell that person “Look, we’ll have to go out of network. It's a lot higher price.”
Women pay. Did you realize the average, look at these average surgeries like breast augmentation. That’s $7,000 and the most common surgical deal, surprised me is actually an eyelid surgery. Those are $5000 and I couldn't imagine looking at a woman on earth thinking she could be cuter with an eyelid surgery. I don't even know what a bad eye lid would look like. I'm sure if you show me the after, I wouldn’t even know which one was the good eye lid and the bad one.
When these people are paying $5000 for an eyelid surgery, you might be looking at this person and start thinking, they want cheap. I'm telling you, when it comes to beauty, especially with women, a lot of them want to just do it right and they don't care if they have to wait three weeks to get into your lab. They don't care. They just want it to look gorgeous. I know Von. I've seen your work. You can do exquisite gorgeous. You have some of the most amazing fans speaking about you and they're all your competitors. They’re all other labs.
Von Grow: We're out of time, but I just want to, one more time to all my group members in the DTG, that’s a testament to them. I'm better because of them and hopefully they can say they’re better because that’s what we do. We share with each other. I'm better because someone else expects me to be better. They hold me accountable to that and that’s how the system works and it works for dentists too. It works for anybody that wants to be involved in it.
Howard: I'll probably get to meet you in the flesh, because I live in Phoenix, which is really just South Utah. I think about a third of all my friends have family in Utah. Do you ever get down to Phoenix much?
Von Grow: Actually we're going down to Arizona, not this weekend but next weekend. I think we wanted to hook up with you then, but you’ll be in New York. I was going to see if wanted to go to dinner or something, but I come down every once in a while.
Howard: You’ve got family down here or just friends?
Von Grow: No, it's actually for business.
Howard: Okay. When you're ever in town buddy, look me up.
Von Grow: All right.
Howard: All right. Thank you again for an hour of your time.
Von Grow: You bet. Any time.
Howard: All right buddy. Bye, Bye.
Von Grow: Take care. Bye.