Inside Dental Technology
A Win-Win Philosophy
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When Keith Douglas Sr. steps out of the laboratory for the night or the weekend, his business cell travels with him. Douglas knows that being accessible at all times is important to the partnership he shares with his dentists. When clients do call, they know that Douglas will answer and gladly spend the extra hours necessary to ensure that a patient’s functional and esthetic needs are met. After all, well-executed patient care is a team effort, and Douglas built his business with one goal in mind—to be a vital member of the clinical team. Working closely with the dentist, clinical staff, and individual patients allows his case outcomes to reflect best-practices dentistry. It is Douglas’ dedication to his clients and their patients that keeps his customer base growing and his business stable.
When Douglas opened Erie Shore Dental Studio LLC in 2005, it was the onset of the esthetic “revolution.” Major industries operating in and around Avon Lake, Ohio, a mid-size city just west of Cleveland, were flourishing and disposable income was freely spent on makeover and esthetic dentistry. Previously Keith had spent nearly two decades isolated in a large commercial laboratory, working his way up the ranks to manager of the ceramics department. Douglas left to open his own business and continues to enjoy working at the highly personalized crown-and-bridge service that he and his wife Sandi, along with their son Keith Jr., have worked so hard to build.
It was not until about a year ago that the downturn in the economy finally hit Douglas’ business. Prior to that, business was good as workers in local businesses and manufacturing facilities flocked to the dentist, mostly Douglas surmises, in fear of being laid off or losing their jobs and their dental insurance. But a year and a half ago his business began to slow down. He decided he needed to add a new product to his high-quality portfolio of select services, in order to give his business a jumpstart. Over the past five years, many of his clients had shifted their material preference from metal-based restorations to all-ceramic. Volatility in the precious metals market had his clients looking for an alternative to PFM’s, and patients were beginning to request more metal-free restorations. The all-ceramic press technology Douglas
purchased when he opened his business was, at that time, one of the best that the market had to offer. And although the final case result met his functional requirements, getting to the final product was often challenging. “The furnace was a bottleneck” said Douglas. “We would often get mis-presses and that meant spending valuable time trying to calibrate the oven and tweaking the press programs to achieve an optimal outcome. We were also wasting considerable amounts of material. Efficient use of time and material is important to any laboratory, but particularly to a small operation like ours.”
He began researching his options. First and foremost, he wanted a furnace that could be reliably calibrated and that featured sensor technology to take the guesswork out of press cycle completion, thereby eliminating his need for remakes. Douglas found that there were only a couple of pressing furnaces on the market that fit his criteria. In the meantime he had also decided on a press material that fit his demand for high-quality esthetics and function. Because several of his clients had been requesting Ivoclar Vivadent’s IPS e.max® restorations, Douglas investigated, taking classes on the material and press technology from such notables as Oliver Brix. “I liked what I saw and heard,” said Douglas. “We ended up purchasing the
It is a purchase that Douglas says is the best business decision he has ever made. Not only has the new material choice opened doors in terms of new customers, it has enhanced his working relationship with his existing clients as well. As highly esthetic results of the materials are widely recognized by his clients, they are sending more and more patients to his laboratory for custom shade appointments. “The stump shade is critical to the final outcome of an e.max crown and to how the restoration looks in the oral environment,” said Douglas. “Our clients know this and don’t hesitate to send their patients to us, which has really grown the custom shade segment of our business.” He and his wife then use a custom stump shade material under the pressed crown to replicate the patient’s preparation to get an exact match to the patient's surrounding dentition.
It is the labor, time, and material savings inherent in using the Programat EP 5000 combination furnace that impresses Douglas the most, having had the greatest positive impact on his bottom line. “Mis-presses are a thing of the past. If an investment ring should crack, the oven automatically senses the crack and aborts the press cycle. This has significantly lowered our remakes and kept costs in line,” said Douglas. “The pressing operation also is completely automatic. Every pressing and firing program for all Ivoclar products are pre-programmed into the furnace so you don’t have to spend valuable time programming the parameters yourself." Nor has Douglas needed to tweak any of the pressing cycles to get the results he expects.
Calibration problems are also a thing of the past. “The furnace tells you when it should be recalibrated,” says Douglas. “You just insert the calibration tool into the furnace and it automatically calibrates the furnace to optimum operating temperatures in a half-hour for both the pressing and firing cycles.”
With nearly 70% of his business now dedicated to e.max restorations, Douglas appreciates the efficiencies built into this new furnace. Pressing cycles are reduced to 10 to 12 minutes versus the 20-minute cycles of many other pressing furnaces on the market. The plug-and-play furnace also offers a timer that automatically turns the furnace on before he arrives at the laboratory every morning, and a unique power-saving button activates the energy-savings mode when not in use. “You really do get what you pay for,” says Douglas. “Reduced time and labor in finishing pressed restorations has been a real boost along with the reduced pressing time and automatic functionality. This furnace has helped us keep our laboratory operating efficiently and is absolutely a win-win for our business.”
The preceding material was provided by the manufacturer. The statements and opinions contained therein are solely those of the manufacturer and not of the editors, publisher, or the Editorial Board of Inside Dental Technology.