Many Reasons to Smile

Auburn dentist Dr. Nate Heffelfinger and business partner Larry Stoller patent a new way to make dentures.
Aug 7, 2017
Deborah C. Gerbers
Steve Vorderman

Dr. Nate Heffelfinger is a dentist at Smiles for Life in Auburn where he and his team are using state-of-the-art technology to bring the latest innovations to their dental patients. 

Heffelfinger and his business partner, Larry Stoller, of Stoller Dental Lab in Bluffton, have collaborated to form a company called Bite Innovations, LLC. They have worked together the last few years on a new invention called Zircobite, a new way to make dentures and partial dentures that look and feel more natural. By using a zirconium product instead of porcelain or plastic, these dentures are expected to provide much better longevity than current materials on the market. “We have been testing our innovation and improving it since November 2014 and are excited that the patent was approved so quickly,” says Heffelfinger. 

The idea for taking an innovative approach to dentures came after Heffelfinger noticed his patients’ dentures were not lasting as long as he believed they should. As a patient chews there is a significant amount of wear that can be observed with porcelain or acrylic teeth. This wear affects the integrity of the teeth or even the denture itself. “Porcelain is pretty and long lasting, but it only works with two complete porcelain sets of dentures together,” explains Heffelfinger. “If you put a porcelain denture tooth against any other material, including natural teeth, it will  cause severe damage to whatever chews against it. As a alternative to porcelain, dentists began using acrylic teeth, which are cheaper and easier to work with. Even the best acrylic teeth on the market have a high wear potential. As the wear occurs, the bite changes leading to a whole host of problems.”

Zirconium is both durable and visually attractive, a combination of qualities that is new to the world of dentures and partials. “After several trials on actual patients, we have found the zirconium teeth exhibit little if any wear at all in over two years, and people are very pleased with the results,” says Hefflefinger. “We now have over 20 patients who are wearing Zircobite, and over the years we have improved the process four times. There are now two additional patents pending, and we have received trademark protection for Zircobite.”

Zircobite is just one example of the unique way Heffelfinger and his practice use technological advancements to bring more modern solutions to patients. “What we do at Smiles for Life is pretty different from other dental offices,” says Heffelfinger. “We are shifting our focus to digital dentistry. Instead of taking impressions and sending them to the lab, we now do digital scanning to produce instant 3-D images, allowing us to design and fabricate many types of restorations right here in the office. We can make things like crowns, onlays, veneers, biteguards, retainers and even dentures.”

Being present at each step along the way allows Heffelfinger to regularly re-assess to ensure the plan is still right for the patient. This comprehensive philosophy and hands-on approach the team has for dentistry itself and each individual patients’ needs makes Smiles for Life unique. “A lot of people visit the dentist with a problem they need to have fixed,” says Heffelfinger. “They usually leave once that is done and their risks for potential future issues are not addressed. But here, we give each patient a thorough assessment to identify common problems that might arise. Our goal is for people to keep their teeth for their entire lives, so we in dentistry need to do a better job at predicting problems early are preventing them the best we can.”

At Smiles for Life, each initial visit lasts approximately two hours, and that does not even include a cleaning – which most people are not used to. “I spend at least an hour with new patients to do a complete, comprehensive assessment to iron out exactly what they want and need,” says Heffelfinger. “I want to ensure we begin to build a solid relationship based on trust. People are trusting me with their teeth, something that is very important, and I want to have a clear understanding between us so that we can offer the best solution plan possible for each individual.”

Heffelfinger and his team will soon be ready to break ground for a new state of the art dental office in Auburn. The new facility will be on the same property as the existing office, and will continue to offer the very latest in dental technology. 

Smiles for Life Family Dentistry

Address: 1210 East 7th Street Auburn, Indiana 46706

Phone: (260) 925-4290


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