November/December 2011, Volume 32, Issue 9
Published by AEGIS Communications
Glidewell: CAD/CAM Spurs Growth, Product Quality
With the rise of CAD/CAM technology, Glidewell Laboratories, which has been producing dental prosthetics since opening its doors in 1970, has transformed its production methods from analog to primarily digital. By embracing and harnessing technological advancements, Glidewell has steadily increased productivity and enhanced its product quality, and today the company has more than 3,100 employees and produces a wide range of products.
Mike Cash, CDT, Sales and Marketing Manager, views CAD/CAM technology as a catalyst for Glidewell’s growth. “There is no doubt that CAD/CAM technology has improved the quality and consistency of the work we produce,” says Cash.
Glidewell’s success with CAD/CAM technology stems from the fact that the company started using the technology when it first became available. “We knew this would be a way to remain competitive in a global market while increasing quality and consistency,” he says, adding that the company has the infrastructure and research and development in place to be a leader in digital dentistry. Glidewell produces its own materials, manufactures its own equipment, and designs many of its products specifically for use in dentistry, which helps make the company nimble and responsive. As a production laboratory, Glidewell is focused on meeting customer due dates, says Cash. “Clinicians want their cases back quickly, so we had to find a pace that maintained the level of consistency and accuracy that clinicians demand for their patients.”
The lab technicians at Glidewell are able to process and manufacture restorations completely digitally, and the company’s machinery is compatible with most of today’s major intraoral impression scanning systems, such as Sirona’s CEREC®, 3M ESPE’s Lava™ C.O.S., IOS FastScan®, and Align Technology’s iTero™. Once clinicians send Glidewell scans of their patients’ mouths, Glidewell is able to design and mill the products without using models.
Glidewell’s monolithic zirconia restoration, BruxZir® Solid Zirconia, is an example of one of the lab’s products that is the result of CAD/CAM technology. “BruxZir is made from milling zirconia into a full-contour restoration,” says Cash, “We wouldn’t be able to offer it if we did not have the CAD/CAM technology available to mill it.”
One of Glidewell’s best-selling products, BruxZir’s popularity is due to its simple design, explains Cash. “BruxZir is a monolithic restoration with no additional layers, which makes it very durable and strong. With BruxZir we see a clinically consistent fit in margins, contacts, and occlusion, with less fractures and problems with breakage,” says Cash.
CAD/CAM milling and new materials are only a portion of Glidewell’s technology initiatives. Glidewell provides its clients the opportunity to interact with the laboratory online, saving time that was formerly spent mailing photos back and forth or on the phone. The company aims to have as many resources as possible available for clinicians online, such as videos and preparation guides. It even offers digital treatment planning services for implants, as well as surgical guides.
Glidewell’s website also features a “My Account” section where customers can check the status of their cases, schedule a case pickup, track shipments, pay their bill, or upload patient images to their own account. It allows the customer, and Glidewell, to communicate online without picking up the phone. However, if a phone call is preferred, there is always a live person available, says Cash.
The company is looking forward to even more Glidewell products produced via CAD/CAM without model work in the very near future, including PFMs and custom implant abutments made from data from digital impression scanners. After scanning the patient’s implant, opposing, and bite, a custom implant abutment and a temporary or permanent restoration can be made digitally without model work. “It’s something we have not done before, so it’s pretty exciting,” concludes Cash.
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