Although hand-crafted porcelain restorations are still widely used, the rise of digitally fabricated restorations is changing the landscape. Most labs have been quick to adopt time-saving digital technology and now it’s the turn of the dental practices to harness the benefits of scanning and milling, to enhance their portfolio of services.
The most forward-thinking universities and training schools are already beginning to incorporate digital dentistry into their curricula and as more newly qualified dentists enter the marketplace, we are seeing a steady shift towards the digital workflow model. From scan to design to final outcome the digital model has continuously evolved. Open solutions are ideally placed to implement the triangle of innovation from material science, hardware improvements and software development.
This culture change has been so successful due to the tangible benefits that dental practices are enjoying as a result of switching to digital dentistry. If you still haven’t decided that digital dentistry is a worthy investment, here are some of the benefits that digital dentistry has brought to the entire industry.
Less Waiting for Completed Prosthetics
A dental surgery is a business and businesses need profits to survive. Today’s consumers have much higher expectations than they used to. They’re not as forgiving of the lead-times associated with traditional methods and if they can find a more convenient service elsewhere, dental surgeries that can’t offer same-day restoration will lose business.
Milling your own prosthetics in-house removes these delays and gives you more time to work on the next job. In fact, it’s estimated that the average time taken to produce an anterior crown in-house – from prep to fit – could be as little as one hour.
Full Control Over Finishing Quality
Any business that outsources work is at the mercy of their sub-contractors to an extent. Due to time constraints, a certain compromise must be reached between quality and turnaround. This is no different in the field of dentistry and it can be tempting to overlook minor flaws in a restoration in favour of serving the patient in a timely manner.
With an in-house CAD/CAM solution, these flaws can easily be corrected within the 3D model in a matter of minutes. The software is designed with existing dental technical skills and practices in mind – the biggest difference is that you’ll use a mouse rather than a waxing knife.
In taking up CAD/CAM there is practically no downtime or reduction in productivity. All your existing skills come into play faster and with greater precision, and if you do make a mistake you can correct it in the software and carry on.
As a dentist, all you really want from the lab is a restoration that looks good and fits properly. Your patients just want to feel good about their smile and enjoy a comfortable fit. By using older techniques, like taking an impression, the chance of error is much greater than it would be with an intraoral scanner. Not only that, but nobody likes the taste of dental putty and digital scanning is less likely to induce gagging.
Using an intraoral scanner in conjunction with a CAD/CAM milling solution gives you remarkable precision that’s hard to match with traditional processes. This means that incidences of poorly fitting restorations are much rarer. Even if corrections need to be made, this can be done in a matter of minutes, meaning your patients are doubly satisfied.
What’s more, the accuracy afforded by intraoral scanners can ensure your patients’ future dental health – since digital restorations have an excellent marginal fit (something difficult to achieve with traditional methods) there is a smaller chance of recurrent caries.
Benefits for Lab Owners
With such labour-saving devices appearing in dental surgeries, you might think that milling machines are something to be feared by dental laboratories. In fact, this trend has been welcomed by many lab owners. Now that dentists can perform the more urgent tasks on their own, labs are freed up to focus on the porcelain side, the ceramic side, the more creative aspects of the work. It also means that they don’t have to break their own productivity to satisfy a sudden urgent request from a dental surgery.
What might have been a cause of conflict between labs and surgeries has actually created a bridge of understanding between the two. Dentists now have developed a greater appreciation and a more informed picture of the laboratories’ work and they have gotten better at telling the difference between good and bad prep.
It’s difficult to argue with the wealth of benefits that producing restorations in-house can bring for all parties. Aside from making life easier for laboratory technicians and dentists, the patients have the most to gain. As more dentists make the move towards modern digital methods, the consumer will become more aware of the possibility of same-day restorations. As a dentist, it’s up to you to invest in this new technology before your patients ask why your surgery doesn’t provide such a service.