Dr Ross Cutts BDS (Lond) Dip Imp Dent RCS (Eng) explains why digital dentistry should not be viewed as an extra expense, but an investment that will reap rewards for your practice both in improved clinical outcomes and business success.
The subject of digital dentistry can seem slightly overwhelming to many dentists, and any dental professional who has attended a trade show or conference in the past 12 months has been bombarded with myriad choices. Many dentists are excited by the advantages of new technology such as CAD/CAM creation of dental restorations, but they don’t necessarily know what to buy or how to take advantage of the many choices presented. Additionally, some dentists are concerned about changing their business model for fear that the quality of their work may suffer and that the cost might be an untenable financial commitment.
The solution is to view new digital technology as a potential business builder, a way to create new income streams and increase the accuracy and predictability of your clinical practice.
At your own pace
I adopted digital technology back in 2003 when I purchased a powdered intra oral scanning unit. Things have moved on dramatically since then and digital technology is becoming more and more easy to use and integrate, for instance the powder-free scanning technology available today for digital scanners has made oral scanning much quicker and easier.
I won’t deny that there is a learning curve with new technology and workflow, but you will see the rewards if you take it at a pace you are comfortable with and build it up slowly. With CAD/CAM, I started with simple posterior crowns, and then moved on to posterior quadrants, then anteriors, then bridges and now I scan and plan all my implant cases using Straumann intraoral scanning and coDiagnostiX™. In fact the vast majority of my work is now completed digitally and I rarely go back to using a ‘wet’ impression.
100% fit for purpose
The first thing I noticed when I received my first CAD/CAM crown back was that the contacts were 100% accurate, and this has continued to be the case, even with my more complicated work. The second thing is that we have a fantastic choice of materials at our disposal, many of which are highly advanced and offer superb biocompatibility. Additionally, these new materials offer a much more cost-effective solution than precious metals traditionally used in restorative dentistry.
I routinely use Createch frameworks as they offer a fantastic range of high quality, innovative, CAD/CAM bridges and bars. The ‘perfect fit’ of a prosthetic unit to either the fixture head or an abutment is the Holy Grail of implant dentistry and can make or break (quite literally) the success of an implant case in the longer term. Gaining a precision fit can be extremely challenging even when using CADCAM, however Createch deliver high-quality titanium CAD/CAM bars that are both lighter and stronger than traditional gold bars, greatly improving fit, saving time and money all round.
An investment, not an expense
Many dental professionals believe that moving into digital dentistry is too expensive and not justified by a big enough increase in quality, but I do have to question why it is that the average dentist does not even think twice about buying a £60K Mercedes, but can’t afford to invest in digital! Part of the problem is understanding the value each offers. To many, the Mercedes is an “investment” and the digital equipment is an “expense”.
For me, digital equipment is absolutely an investment, and I don’t subscribe to the “don’t buy today, it’ll be obsolete tomorrow” philosophy. I think the key with technology is to look for a supplier who offers good quality-products which will work for you now, but also come with a commitment to provide solutions for upgrading those products in the future. Look for manufacturers with a track record of providing regular software updates that truly improve performance and keep up with prevailing trends.
With the increase in open digital technology in the dental industry, fears of being locked into a system or having to stick with the same manufacturer are also diminishing. The opening up of digital dentistry will make an even more fertile breeding ground for new innovative equipment which will work with existing technologies and not require a big injection of cash each time you upgrade.
Remember too that equipment doesn’t have to last for ever – it just needs to pay for itself every day. If something faster, smaller or more efficient comes along, make your decision based on return on investment and its value to your business as a whole. If it will result in better-quality dentistry, you will make fewer mistakes, you’ll have fewer recalls, you’ll have happier patients, better treatment acceptance and higher referrals. That’s quite a return on a bit of digital kit!
Watch this space
We are probably still at the start of the digital dental revolution; I can see a future where practice, lab and milling centre coalesce into one entity, all working together in a much more integrated and efficient digital workflow.
Dr Ross Cutts BDS (Lond) Dip Imp Dent RCS (Eng)
Practice Principal, Cirencester Dental Practice
Ross graduated from Guy’s Hospital, London in 2000. He is a dentist with Special Interests in Implant Dentistry and Advanced Restorative Procedures. He has placed over 2,000 implants in the last 10 years.
He is a Fellow of the International Team for Implantology (ITI) – and is a Study Club Director and clinical mentor for this Worldwide Organisation. He regularly holds implant courses and lectures nationwide on a variety of topics at different levels, however he has a particular interest in Aesthetic Implant Dentistry, Digital Dentistry and complex Bone Grafting procedures.
Would YOU like to understand more about how digital dentistry can be used to aid the restoration of dental implants?
Ross will be presenting a 3-Day Course ‘Confidence in Restoring Dental Implants Including the use of digital technology & CADCAM’ starting on Wednesday 6th September 2017. For more details contact Zoe Haigh at Cirencester Dental Practice on 01285 640248 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about digital dentistry, contact Straumann on 01293 651230 or visit www.straumann.co.uk
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