Interview with Dr. Kevin Yoder, Computer Scientist Turned Dentist

blank

Over the years Dr. Yoder has been immersed with computers and technology, which he quickly developed a fierce passion for.  He coded his first application when he was in the 7th grade, and continued on until he received his undergraduate degree in computer science.

After completing his dental degree and settling into private practice, Dr. Yoder immediately saw the need for many technological advancements in the field of dentistry and made it his second full-time job to raise the bar for the profession.  Since then, Dr. Yoder has spent countless hours researching, prototyping and experimenting with various modalities of technology, trying to determine what the best and cheapest methods are to universally advance dentistry as a whole. He prides himself on his software development skills, a thorough understanding of CAD/CAM and streamlining workflows for digital dentistry. Dr. Yoder will be a speaker at 3DHEALS2020 .

blank

Nabeel: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment? How many 3D printers do you have now?

Kevin: The first encounter I had with 3D printing was watching a video clip that Dr. Corey Glenn posted on Dentaltown.com, where he showed a denture being 3D printed in fast forward.  The entire time the video clip played, my jaw was wide open and I didn’t blink once.  I probably replayed that video 100 times, with it getting better and more exciting each time.  It was like a scene from Star Trek, and I still get that sensation 3 years later.  Since that first encounter, I have purchased eight 3D printers, six of which are resin-based, and the other two are filament based.  Only one is no longer working, which brings me back to seven 3D printers in total at this time (6 resin and 1 FDM).

blank

Nabeel: After obtaining a degree in Computer Science, what inspired you choose Dentistry?

Kevin: Ironically enough, the CIO at the tech firm I was interning at during my undergraduate degree, gave a speech regarding Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat”, specifically the chapter on “The Untouchables”, which inspired me to immediately stop working in the tech industry.  In general, Friedman summarises that as we move forward into the next inevitable technological age, the existing set of skills that have always been deemed as important gets “flattened” and no longer becomes as important due to automation and technological advances. 

Thus, in order to ensure a long-lasting and successful career, one needs to find a profession that not only separates you from the rest in terms of skill set but also one that theoretically makes you “Untouchable” to the “flattening” process.  In my mind (whether it was true or not), I was on the conveyor belt towards replacement, and since I was just about to start the rest of my life in a highly likely “flattening” field, I made the decision to sidestep into dentistry.  The other big factor was that my father was a dentist and had a practice back in my hometown where he was waiting to retire.  All things considered, it seemed to make logical sense at the time to switch. 

As it turns out I am very happy I did, because interacting with and helping patients on a personal level is extremely fulfilling to me, and I think it fits my personality perfectly.  And as far as Friedman is concerned, I have become even more specialized as a dentist that is also a computer scientist, so I guess that would make him happy :), but more importantly, it has truly given me the insight as to what technological innovations are possible, and very much needed in the dental profession.

Nabeel: What is a career goal you hope to achieve as a computer scientist—dentist?

Kevin: I want to invent and innovate in the dental technology space.  I also desire to share what I already know about technology and the different ways it can be used in dentistry.  Ideally, I want to create something new that would help the entire profession move forward.  The reality is, as dentists, we don’t have much time to learn an entirely new field of study like computer science, and since I already have that knowledge in place, it seems very likely that I would be able to contribute to that goal in some regard.  

blank

Nabeel: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing (bio-printing/bio-fabrication)? This can be a mentor, a patient, a celebrity, anyone basically. You can name more than one as well.

Kevin: I have to start with Dr. Corey Glenn, who has done so much for digital dentistry already and who initially got me excited about 3D printing in the first place because of all of his posts on Dentaltown.com.  From there, I had the excitement, but not the knowledge, so I started to research what was being done with 3D printing in the dental field as it was.  That led me to Dr. Patrick Moore, and all of his solo work done with Blender and dental CAD. 

At the time, he had videos that were over 5 years old (now 8+ years old) showing the things that people are only starting to do right now.  I binged his entire YouTube video catalog and then instantly started to learn Blender.  I eventually reached out to Dr. Moore, and told him the passion and excitement I had for 3D printing and what my background was, and in just a couple months we became business partners and started our current company, D3Tool.  Since that time we have worked hard to release two pieces of dental CAD software, D3Splint, and D3Mesh, and have two more projects being released in the next several weeks. 

Dr. Christian Brenes is another leader in the 3D dental field who has greatly inspired me through his multiple generous contributions, including the 3D tooth libraries he has made widely available to everyone at no cost.  All three of these people are legends in my mind, and it is a blessing to even possibly share the stage with them.

Nabeel: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) at this time to dentists 3D printing?

Kevin: The learning curve.  Generally speaking, there are many steps involved in consistently achieving a well printed 3D part, each step with its own individual learning curve.  Starting with 3D scanning, to virtual 3D scan repair, to 3D part fabrication, to properly orienting the part for 3D printing, to generating the proper supports for the 3D part to be printed, to 3D printing the part in itself, to washing, curing and finally finishing the 3D printed object.  Regardless of your technical expertise, there are many subtle nuances to 3D printing, and if you aren’t aware of what they are, you may end up with a lot of failed 3D prints, and a discouraging attitude towards the technology. I think the education on the technology is somewhat lacking at the moment as well, but that is partially why 3DHeals exists, and why I have started my YouTube channel “Computer Science of Dentistry”.

blank

Nabeel: What do you think is the biggest challenge in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Kevin: I personally believe the biggest challenges in 3D printing right now are two-fold.  One is that the hardware required to begin dental 3D printing is relatively cheap, while the software required to produce patient-specific parts, ready to 3D print, is much greater and it needs to be better balanced.  Also, the vast majority of the time, the software is “all or nothing” and the user ends up spending money on features they will never use. 

The second big challenge is the multi-step protocols required to achieve that perfect 3D print.  At the end of the day, most dentists are business owners and entrepreneurs, and they don’t have the time to fully learn all the intricate steps of dental CAD, 3D printing and post-processing. While it feels like the 3D printing industry is headed towards attempting to combine these steps with AI and automation, it still remains that there are multiple sub-topics within the generic 3D printing category that are vital to successful 3D printing, but get commonly overlooked or not discussed with the potential new user.

Nabeel: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?

Kevin: Look at all the things I can do with this same one piece of technology.  On the same day I can make high quality biocompatible dental prosthetics, run my own in-house Invisalign and pop off baby Yodas and rheostat switches, all with the same machine.  The versatility of 3D printing has no competition, and it’s use cases span multiple industries all in one piece of technology.

Nabeel: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?

Kevin: Hiring an employee to help.  It’s a slightly cheeky answer, but at this point in time there are still a few tedious steps that need to be addressed, and as a full-time dentist I don’t always have the immediate time required to fully utilize the technology.  Once I hired and trained my “3D printing lab tech”, I now have the ability to do the clinical diagnostics and deliveries while delegating the time-consuming parts of the 3D printing workflow to an auxiliary.  An alternate answer to this question would be purchasing a 3D scanner (desktop or intraoral).  There is only so much you can do with only a 3D printer (believe me, I tried for as long as I could).  If that seems like a given, then my last answer would be the time I invested in learning the technology.  If you truly understand what you are doing, the possibilities are nearly endless, and your success rates go up drastically.

blank

Nabeel: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?

Kevin: Making myself a public figure in the dental 3D printing industry.  You never know what kind of reception you will get when you put yourself out there, but my excitement for the topic is so great that it was almost a necessity for me.  I could start immediately showing off what could be done with different technologies, and share the passion I have with everyone else or, more honestly, anyone that would listen :).  My YouTube channel “Computer Science of Dentistry” and my Twitch channel “CSofDentistry” are the outlets I have chosen to present my research and promote new technologies in VOD (Video on Demand) and live-streaming formats.  The main reason I chose to use these platforms is due to their interactive nature and their widespread use in other industries that have already proven to be successful.  While the number of dental professionals that use YouTube and/or Twitch is very minimal at this point (although it is growing), I am hopeful that as the new generation of dentists emerges they will already be familiar with these formats and can start easily learning immediately.  I am also optimistically hopeful that the current generation of dentists will learn to appreciate these media delivery formats as well, and start to engage with those of our set up on these platforms already.  

Nabeel: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?

Kevin: I love pickleball.  I’m sure almost nobody knows what that is, and it might even sound made up, but it is real and so much fun!  I played competitive tennis throughout high school and college, and pickleball is just another type of racquet sports game, which happens to have an intensely fanatic player base, which I love.  Pickleball is such a good workout and the people that play are truly amazing!  I also love spending time with my family and friends, and I watch a TON of YouTube and Twitch.

blank

Nabeel: What is your favorite quote? Why?

Kevin: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” — Unknown.  

I think in today’s climate, too many people speak up without knowing what they are talking about, including but not limited to, the highest appointed roles of leadership in this country, which can create a great deal of misinformation and distress.  It really just comes down to being a good and thoughtful steward of information.  While I like to think I follow this adage in theory, I probably don’t in practice, but for me, it is a goal worth striving for in a lot of cases.

“Don’t write anything down on paper you don’t want the whole world to see.”  — Dad

This quote is arguably more important these days than it was when I first heard it as a kid, with all the different social media platforms saving everything you have ever typed up.  In my mind, it is just another way to think of being responsible for what we say and write down, and carefully considering how others might interpret it. Again, a wonderful idea, but in practice, I’m sure I have fallen short of that goal a million times over, and if the quote is right, we will all find out soon!

Nabeel: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)

Kevin: For me personally, it is a moniker that represents a challenge.  A challenge to not only determines the best possible ways 3D printing technology can be used to treat patients of all kinds in the full spectrum of healthcare but to also educate others along the way to help inspire further innovation and unique treatment opportunities.

To the public, “3DHeals” should represent the vast potential of what is possible with 3D printing technology, from advanced bioprinting of tissues and organs that can save lives, to basic printing of downloaded internet models that can make people smile, hopefully improving their mental health for the day.  The thought of healing with 3D printing should also not be restricted to just human patients, as this technology could be equally beneficial in the veterinary sciences as well.  Finally, the relatively low costs of 3D printing combined with the ability to easily produce high quality, patient-specific parts in a minimal amount of time, on a massive scale with extreme portability, needs to be emphasized.  This could easily increase the number and quality of treatment options for underserved populations on a scale never seen before.

In my opinion, regardless of the 3D manufacturing method, the future of healthcare is in 3D CAD/CAM, and it is exciting to be included in a group of like-minded individuals brought together by 3DHeals.

About the Author:

blank

Dr. Nabeel Cajee is the Dental Ambassador for 3D Heals, a healthcare 3D Printing innovation platform, and has served as adjunct faculty at the University of the Pacific. He graduated from the University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco and completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency at Oakland’s Highland Hospital. He is recognized as a Master of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists and Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Prosthodontics. He maintains implant dentistry focused private practice in Manteca, California. He will be a speaker and moderator at 3DHEALS2020.

Related Articles:

Interview with Firoza Kothari, co-founder Anatomiz3D (Video)

Interview with Blake Courter CTO at nTopoloy

Interview with Dana Maringo, New Balance

Interview with Joshua Neubert, NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge (Video)

Interview: Game Changer with 3D Printed Dental Implants (Video) -An Interview with Dr. Rui Coelho, Founder of BoneEasy

Comments