Creative ceramist to empowered CAD designer

March 14, 2023

Magdalena Kotula started her dental lab career in her hometown of Krakow, Poland. She moved to Harrogate, UK, in 2005 and landed a job in a lab as a ceramist. After almost two decades of steady work, Magdalena shook things up, moving to a new lab and a new job: CAD designer. She tells us how she was “terrified, overwhelmed and uncertain” with CAD design at the beginning, but soon found new reasons to feel inspired and empowered in her career—fueled by the ease and power of exocad software.

Q: What drew you to being a ceramist and dental technician?

A: I like manual work. I never saw myself working at an office. In high school, I was always making things and working with my hands. And I was obsessed with going to the dentist. I wanted to see how they did their job. I thought about maybe becoming a dentist, but because I enjoyed making sculptures, I thought, maybe being a technician is more my thing. And I absolutely love it. This is the perfect job for me. I like every aspect. The experience of being a traditional technician gave me a lot of experience, and now being a digital technician is really exciting.

Q: Tell me more about your transition from traditional lab work to digital. What motivated you to move from being a ceramist to a CAD designer?

A: In 2021, I emailed an application to Steve Campbell at the Nexus Dental Laboratory. Steve got back to me really quickly and said, “I see you as a CAD technician.” That was without even having met me, but he saw where I was working as a ceramist. He knew my background, knew the work I was doing and that it had a quite high standard.

“I was terrified, overwhelmed, and uncertain at the beginning but then started working with exocad’s DentalCAD and that was it for me. I was in love.”

Q: So he saw that you were at the top of your game and suggested pushing you further?

A: Yes. I think to achieve anything in life you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I was a ceramist for so long and felt good and confident in what I was doing, but I saw the changes happening in dentistry and dental technology. I wanted to try designing using software instead of relying on analog workflows. I got the job as a CAD technician at Nexus. I was terrified, overwhelmed, and uncertain at the beginning but then started working with exocad’s DentalCAD, and that was it for me. I was in love.

Q: What was the learning process like for you with CAD design and exocad specifically?

A: Before I started at Nexus, I had some experience with a different CAD software. On day one, Steve said I could decide which software I prefer. I tried exocad for the first time and was hooked.

Q: What did you prefer about exocad software over the other design software?

A: DentalCAD is just so easy to work on. Even though I had more experience with the other software and had never worked on exocad before, I quickly preferred it because it was so much more intuitive. You don't need to think much, and you can figure out what to do. I especially like the new 3.1 Rijeka version.

“I love that I can change the implant library while designing, and it doesn’t affect my designs. Instead of needing to start over, I can stay in the flow.”

Q: What’s your favorite feature in DentalCAD 3.1 Rijeka?

A: I love that I can change the implant library while designing, and it doesn’t affect my designs. Instead of needing to start over, I can stay in the flow. I use that a lot when designing abutments and crowns.

Also, the waxup I get at the end of my work is amazing. I can take photos, create files and adjust the colors of my restorations.

Another detail that’s really helpful when designing crowns is that the software highlights the parts in green that are moving.

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Magdalena adds occlusion to the molar, one of her favorite teeth to design, using DentalCAD.

Q: How does having a digital workflow affect your communication with the dentist?

A: There are a ton of useful tools with exocad. I can send the webview link, a lot of screenshots, and HTML files, if requested, to the dentists. For example, with waxups, dentists can look at the file and see how much adjustment they need to make. I think you can predict much more before doing the final restorations. Before prepping teeth, you can spot things that can go wrong. It’s a big timesaver.  

Q: Do the dentists you work with use exocad’s webview to view the HTML files?

A: Yes, webview is absolutely amazing because the dentists can see what we see in the lab. It’s easier for me to point out things. Everybody can open webview, even using their phones. This helps the dentists have a better understanding of the technical part we do at the lab.

Q: Any tips to share with fellow CAD designers?

A: I like adding a personal touch to my designs. My goal is always to have the restoration look as natural as possible. I often use the copy tooth or mirror tooth tool to help with this. I absolutely love this tool. You can copy the patient’s tooth shape and do some tweaks, improve occlusion, and easily match the shape of the patient’s teeth.

Q: If exocad was an animal, what it would be?

A: Definitely a cat. I absolutely love the exocad design with Felix the Cat. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

Q: Favorite tooth?

A: I like molars because they give you a chance to put your own touch on them. With centrals, you need to basically copy whatever the patient has exactly, but with molars, you can have something for yourself as a designer. You can play a bit—add some stains and occlusion. It’s more fun.

Q: Do you have a favorite song at the moment?

A: I think my favorite song is “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. I grew up in the nineties and listened to this song a lot. It’s all about being true to yourself. A friend recently gave me the version by Apocalyptica with four cellos. It blew me over.

Q: What word do you think of when I say exocad?

A: Future.

Magdalena Kotula is an experienced dental technician and a member of the Nexus Dental Laboratory CAD/CAM team and an exocad user since 2021. She finds digital workflows exciting and enjoys the efficiency they provide, as well as the opportunity for easy and clear communication between dentists and patients. She studied dental technology at Medical College in Krakow, Poland, and graduated as a dental technician in 2001. Magda started her professional life in Poland as a ceramist and continued in this role after moving to the UK. With over 20 years of experience, Magda has a strong understanding of esthetics, morphology, occlusion, and the function of dental restorations. When Magda is presented with a case, her experience allows her to provide the client with a balanced view of quality and cost, enabling her to deliver the most desired solution for the patient. Magda is passionate about vintage 1940s and 1950s fashion, swing dancing, walking her dog and spending time with loved ones. Check out the work of Magdalena and her colleagues at Nexus Dental Laboratory on Instagram.

by Caitlan Reeg
Writer at exocad

Caitlan Reeg spends her days telling the world about the innovations her colleagues create. She’s passionate about healthcare, technology, and the ways the two interact to improve our lives. A former journalist, Caitlan has worked on staff at Dow Jones Newswires in Frankfurt and at the national public radio program Marketplace in Los Angeles.