Ambitious Technician Takes Success to Next Level
Software upgrade helps improve milling capabilities drastically
Alesha Snell describes herself as “never one to settle.” From her first job in a dentist’s office as a teenager, to working as a prosthodontist’s assistant and eventually taking over his business, to growing her laboratory in Draper, Utah from five employees to 11 over the past year, Snell’s career has proven her words to be true.
Snell’s introduction to the dental field was purely out of necessity. Having made the dance company in school, she needed money to pay for it. Her grandmother’s cousin’s husband was a dentist across the street from her school, so she accepted a job there.
“The first two weeks, I felt like I was in China because all the terminology was so confusing,” she says. “But I have always been really good with my hands and really competitive internally, so I was able to adapt quickly.”
Building on that experience and her knowledge of the area, Snell later worked for FHP Health Care, which had a network of dentists. Snell helped the company’s new dentists set up practices, and when FHP ceased operations, she continued the setup business on her own. That led to a full-time job with one of the dentists, a prosthodontist named Kurt Metzler, DDS, in 2001.
Working as Metzler’s assistant, Snell gained experience in a variety of capacities in the dental office, but laboratory work was her favorite. Eventually, when Metzler moved away for family reasons, Snell started her own laboratory, which is now known as Revolution Dental Prosthetics.
Over the past 16 years she has partnered with multiple other businesses, but a year ago she decided to become independent, and since then she has gone from five employees to 11, including her son, Jordan, a CAD specialist. She plans to hire two more employees soon.
“My core focus is high-end, challenging cases such as complex deformities, implants, and hybrids,” Snell says.
Snell attributes her success to a number of factors. A hard worker, she says a typical day’s work for her is 12 hours; her husband and eight children between the ages of 10-26 frequently join her in the laboratory. She also has close relationships with her clients, which she says is partly because her prior experience in dental offices gives her a unique perspective. She also has a broad dental education that began with attending conferences with Metzler, and she says would rather read a book on oral pathology than People magazine. Finally, she says karma is a factor, based on the numerous charity cases she does.
“We pride ourselves in providing some of the amazing techniques and treatments that we have to people who cannot afford it,” she says.
Never settling is another reason for her success. Snell has been milling zirconia in desktop milling machines for quite some time, but she had to outsource her milled bars. She became fed up, however; one major implant manufacturer was providing subpar bars, and another took her ideas for custom designs and patented them.
“I decided it was time to start milling bars myself,” she says.
In July 2015, Snell purchased a Nevada laboratory and brought its two milling machines to her Utah facility — an imes-icore 550i and 250i. Shortly thereafter, she brought on a CAD specialist, Jesse Madsen, who had experience with the machines, and he persuaded her to upgrade her CAM software to hyperDENT from FOLLOW-ME! Technology North America.
“It has been completely worth the investment,” Snell says. “Our capabilities are so expansive now. If you can think it, you can do it. The CAM software that came with our machines was insufficient for our needs. It was too limiting and inefficient.”
The hyperDENT CAM software allows Snell and her team to create strategies for any type of milled restoration, including a complete library of implant geometries. Previously, she says, abutments and bars for certain implant platforms needed to be outsourced to that manufacturer.
“The significant limitations of standard systems do not exist with hyperDENT CAM software, especially when paired with the exocad design software,” she says.
The wide range of capabilities is not the only result of the software upgrade. Snell says single-unit, screw-retained titanium parts that previously took 90 minutes to mill take only 30 now, and bars that took 8-11 hours can be milled in only 2-3.
“The available toolpaths in our old CAM software were very inefficient,” she says. “hyperDENT’s superior technology has eliminated the bottlenecks in our workflow by significantly reducing our calculation and milling times.”
Snell says that changing to hyperDENT yielded the production equivalent of purchasing at least one additional machine and CAM station. She also attributes an increase in consistency and accuracy to her new in-house milling process.
Snell is now working with the University of Utah on new concepts, as well as with Gordon Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD, on a new hybrid magnetic bar. She expects to continue innovating, because after all, she never settles.
“We have come really far,” Snell says. “Nothing touches the quality and capabilities that we have been able to achieve over the past several months. We can accomplish almost anything.”
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