Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Dr Bill Gergis has single-handedly built a successful dental practice from scratch, is pioneering biomimetic dentistry in Australia, and has designed his own range of dental instruments. And this energetic Adelaide-based dentist is only just getting started. By Shane Conroy
Dr Bill Gergis is a man on a mission. He has built a successful Adelaide-based practice from scratch, is pioneering biomimetic dentistry in Australia, taught at Adelaide University, shares his knowledge with almost 20,000 dentist followers on Instagram, and—in his spare time—has designed and developed a range of custom dentistry instruments. That makes for a hectic schedule, but Dr Gergis wouldn’t have it any other way. He discovered a passion for dentistry at a young age and has been set on a career as a dentist ever since.
“I had really positive experiences visiting the dentist as a kid, so it’s a profession that has always really appealed to me,” he says. “Then I did work experience at a dental practice in high school, and it has been my first preference since.”
After completing his secondary schooling, Dr Gergis graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery. He went straight to work in private practice where he honed his clinical skills.
“Going from university into private practice was quite a learning curve,” he says. “Suddenly you’re under a lot more time pressure. But I was fortunate to have a fantastic mentor who supported me in prioritising high-quality dentistry first, as speed naturally comes with time.”
Then, about two years ago, Dr Gergis came across an empty store in an Adelaide shopping centre—the Brickworks Marketplace. It was a completely blank slate, but the young dentist could only see potential.
“I had wanted to have my own practice for some time, but it was important for me to start from scratch rather than buy into an existing practice,” he says. “Starting with an empty shop allowed me to set it up exactly the way I wanted. It gave me the freedom to really bring my vision to life.”
Nature knows best
The result is Brickworks Dental, and Dr Gergis’s vision for the practice is built largely around biomimetic dentistry.
“Biomimetics is based on the idea that nature is better than anything we can create,” he explains. “Nature has it all figured out. The ideal model or reference that we should strive to replicate is in plain sight—it’s the intact natural tooth.”
Biomimetic dentistry, which literally means ‘dentistry that mimics life’, has been gaining popularity overseas for decades, however Dr Gergis says it has only started to attract attention in Australia in recent years.
“In practical benefits, this type of dentistry results in less root canals by a concept known as the peripheral seal zone,” he says. “It also results in less sensitivity after treatment because the dentine is permanently sealed with a gold standard bonding agent. We also tend to see fewer broken teeth or extractions because we’re preserving the tooth’s strength by not drilling away healthy tooth structure to mechanically hold the filling or crown.”
Swiss-born dentist Dr Pascal Magne is widely credited as the father of biomimetic dentistry. He has dedicated much of his career to developing and teaching biomimetic techniques that have caused a radical shift from the older traditional mechanical retention concepts towards modern adhesive retention.
“Amalgams and cemented crowns were good maybe 30 years ago,” Dr Gergis says. “But now we have a better way with bonded ceramics, so why should we keep doing the same thing?
Traditional prosthetic dentistry drills away healthy tooth structure for what’s known as ‘retention and resistance form’— things like pins, grooves, posts, and circumferential axial reduction.
“These concepts are completely outdated when you realise that you can glue a restoration to dentine at a strength of 70mpa with biomimetic techniques, which is greater than the 51.5mpa that dentine is glued to enamel. You never see enamel debonding from dentine, so what’s there to worry about?”
Dr Gergis’s practice of dentistry is heavily influenced by the work of Dr Graeme Milicich—a pioneer in biomimetic dentistry from New Zealand and researcher of stress distribution in teeth.
“Dr Milicich says that as soon as you drill a tooth for a crown, half the strength or load bearing capacity goes up the suction. It’s why so many of my patients with older crowns eventually end up with decoronated teeth that need extraction. This is commonly known as the ‘restorative cycle of tooth death’. With biomimetic dentistry we aim to break that cycle.”
Dr Gergis is pioneering biomimetic dentistry in Australia. He founded Biomimetic Aesthetic Dentistry (BAD) in Australia, along with colleagues Dr Timothy Maxwell, Dr Maheer Shah and Dr Steven Schiffenhaus.
BAD Australia has a growing social media profile on Instagram, and the founders plan to run courses in biomimetic dentistry later this year.
“BAD was formed to educate Australian dentists on the science-based practice of biomimetic dentistry that not only restores teeth to their natural function, but also appearance,” says Dr Gergis. “It’s bonded dental art.”
Building better tools
In addition to single-handedly building Brickworks Dental while pioneering biomimetic dentistry in Australia, Dr Gergis has also designed and developed a range of dental instruments that he sells via the Brickworks Dental website.
His first innovation is the BAD-PEN. It’s a composite sculpting instrument with a unibody metal design, moldable shank and a customisable file insert for fissure engraving.
“The inspiration for the BAD-PEN really just came from thinking about the kind of sculpting instrument I wished was available,” he says. “I started designing in CAD software, and 3D printed several plastic prototypes with our dental 3D printers. Then it was a matter of refining the design until I had an instrument I wanted to use myself, and by extension, other dentists.”
Dr Gergis says the response to the BAD-PEN has been overwhelming, and the demand has inspired him to put more time into product design and development.
“It started as a hobby to be honest,” he says. “I really like the creative design process and it doesn’t feel like work. But the response to the BAD-PEN has been so positive that I’m planning to scale back a little on my clinical time in the future so I can put more focus into product development.”
Dr Gergis has also developed the ZELDAM rubber dam template that is machined from 2mm stainless steel, and 3D-printed training models he has named Tooth Lego.
“Tooth Lego are 3D printed occlusal anatomy templates,” he explains. “They feature anatomically correct groove and ridge morphology, and act as a guide for cuspal and fissure placement. I hand-picked natural teeth from multiple scans to make the Tooth Lego templates as true to nature as possible.”
Dr Gergis says Tooth Lego templates are an ideal training tool for dentists learning new biomimetic techniques, and for practising their general clinical skills.
“Whether you’re a dental student or an experienced dentist, there’s no such thing as being too good to practise,” he says. “I believe there is a lot of art in tooth restoration, particularly when you’re trying to mimic nature with biomimetic techniques. As dentists, it’s important to practise our techniques and keep developing not only our knowledge, but also mastering the art of dentistry.
“That’s where biomimetic dentistry can really change the game. Suddenly we’re not just putting in fillings, we’re restoring teeth and bringing them back to as close to nature as possible. That requires time, skill and a passion for the art that is at the centre of biomimetic dentistry.”