One of the most common struggles of taking a workshop or a seminar is implementation of the course material once you get home. The Spear Online platform makes it easy to look back on specific parts of the course you may need to refresh on, and as a Faculty Club member I can audit courses, but my own personal struggle has always been implementation from start to finish. It’s easy to start using parts and pieces of the workshop, but a huge personal struggle has been to implement the facially generated comprehensive treatment plan from start to finish.

First, I started mounting cases. They looked pretty, and I felt a sense of satisfaction with my shiny new articulator. Then I had to figure out what to do with the case. Slowly, through additional workshops, I started to see the end result I wanted to get to and could bullet point the problem list and ways of getting to the desired result.

My continued struggle has been communication with specialists and with the lab regarding how to get from mounted models to case completion. Each person that touches a case has a different idea in their heads of where the case is going.

It’s like having three people read a fiction novel and then asking them to describe the main character’s home. They might all picture a log cabin in the mountains, but that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Three people could be envisioning these three places:

waxing case comparison
waxing dental cases house comparison
wax cases

Over the last year, I started doing something I hadn’t done a whole lot of since dental school: I started doing my own wax-ups. I’m not taking cases to completion when there are more than a few teeth involved, but what I’ve found is that sending a mounted case to the lab and asking them to create what you’re looking for off verbal instructions alone isn’t nearly as successful as giving them physical guidance to do what they do best.

If you can wax up the incisal edge position, you could potentially save both you and your technician a lot of time. If you can show your specialists what the end goal is, even if it isn’t the prettiest wax-up, you can treatment plan more thoroughly and accurately before the patient is in the chair. 

waxing teeth tool

While treatment planning more effectively has been a huge benefit of waxing myself, the greatest benefit has been in improving my hand skills. I’ve been placing direct composite over porcelain for a lot of anterior work over the last year or two, and being able to complete additive wax-ups prior to translating it in composite in the mouth has made treatment more efficient, far more predictable, and way more fun.

Waxing has given me a greater understanding of anterior guidance, a better sense of line angles and surface texture, and an overall better appreciation of what the technician is asked to create. My clinical skills have improved, and my grasp of a technician’s abilities and limitations are better appreciated.

Recently, I had a new patient call on the emergency line. Her daughter fractured #8 on a tennis racquet at practice and had superlative photos for her high school yearbook that week. One of her two superlatives was “best smile”!

I had the patient come in early the next morning before our typical day started. I realized the fracture would be best restored with composite, but I knew I’d get my best result if I had a matrix off of a wax-up so that I could layer it and incorporate the high translucency and variation of value within the tooth.

While it would be nice to send a case like this off to the lab, I had a devastated patient with important photos that week, and time was a limitation. I took alginate impressions that morning, waxed the tooth up at lunch, and saw the patient for the composite at the end of my scheduled day.

If you had asked me to see this patient two years ago, I would have done a direct composite free-hand, and I wouldn’t have had the ability to layer shades and control the translucency. The shape would have been achieved by over-bulking initially and finishing back to the final result. 

waxing composite cases
alginate impressions for restorations
alginate impressions for composite restorations
waxing composite cases for esthetic restorations
esthetic restorations chipped tooth
esthetic restoration waxing own cases

I recently wrote an article on isolation talking about how we ran for the hills from rubber dams when we graduated dental school. I think many of us left waxing to first year anatomy class. It’s not something we have to do every day, or for every case, but having the tools available when you need them and when the case can benefit from them has proven invaluable for my practice. 

(Click this link for more dentistry articles by Dr. Courtney Lavigne.)

Courtney Lavigne, D.M.D., Spear Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author -


Commenter's Profile Image Carl S.
October 19th, 2017
Great article Courtney. I agree, we were all afraid of waxing and like most things the more you do the better you get. Not only in waxing but in your care for patients! Carl