Inside Dental Technology
An Interview with Brian Brooks
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): What is the state of the dental technology industry from your perspective?
Brian Brooks (BB): Recent advances in materials and technology have been the drivers of dramatic change in the industry over the last few years. Today, more laboratories are moving to a digital workflow, which is allowing them to increase their production capacity. Digital dental technologies are bringing more value, reliability and simplicity to the production process. Open architecture systems are becoming more widely accepted because they allow laboratories to mix and match different products.
IDT: How does the transition from analog to digital workflow impact the business of dental laboratories?
BB: Digital technologies allow laboratories to expand their in-house production and handle more complex cases. Digital dentistry is also more accurate than analog production methods. Through a digital workflow, the dentist and laboratory can reduce costs, shorten the turnaround times for prosthetic production, and allow the patient to be treated faster.
IDT: What factors need to be considered when purchasing a milling unit, especially in terms of return on investment?
BB: Laboratory owners must have a good business plan before making the initial investment. It is important to understand the different costs, both short and long term, associated with in-house production. With so many different milling options, decision makers need to choose a solution that matches the requirements of their customers along with the type of work the laboratory specializes in. For example, if the majority of work a laboratory produces is zirconia restorations, it may not be cost effective for them to purchase a mill for metal work. Outsourcing can be more cost effective for rare or specialty cases. The investment usually makes sense for equipment that is consistently running and producing revenue.
Regardless of the technology and application, it is critical to choose a reliable product. At Roland, we pride ourselves on providing products and services that meet or exceed our customers’ expectations, and we are always working to improve product quality. We carefully choose solution partners and dealers that share our high standards.
With the cost of digital equipment becoming more affordable and interest rates for lease programs at an all time low, the return on investment for a digital system is very high right now. It may come as a surprise that only a small number of cases per month are needed to break even and justify the purchase of CAD/CAM equipment. We feature a return-on-investment calculator on our website that allows potential customers to enter in their own data to calculate their monthly savings over a comparable outsourcing model. Not only does this estimate cost savings, but it also helps assess their current outsourcing costs.
IDT: What should potential buyers consider when choosing a dealer/solutions partner in terms of training, support, and the ability to help a business grow?
BB: Buyers instinctively look at the lowest cost options first. However, there is a big difference between cost and value when it comes to selecting a dealer or solutions partner. Choose a dealer that will take the time to understand your particular business needs. When affordability is an issue, a good partner will help you grow your business at the right pace.
Another aspect to consider is the need for training and education. Your dealer should offer a training and educational program tailored to your needs.
Support is also a major factor in choosing a dealer. At Roland, we understand that when a machine isn’t working properly, the laboratory is losing money. So do our dealers. The best manufacturers and dealers demonstrate a proven record of supporting, troubleshooting, and repairing equipment without delay. In addition to having an experienced support team on staff, Roland offers extensive training to dealers and end users through Roland Academy. And, while dealers are always the first line of support for our customers, Roland technical support is only a phone call or e-mail away for both dealers and customers.
IDT: For first-time users, how easy is it to make the transition to CAD/CAM production processes?
BB: For some, the technology is initially viewed as intimidating. However, implementing CAD/CAM technology is not as difficult as some may think. Today’s digital systems are becoming much more user friendly, and the learning curve is shrinking. People that have little or no computer experience are becoming proficient CAD/CAM users within a relatively short period of time. We continue to work with customers directly and through our dealer network to make it easy for them to take the leap into digital. And once the processes are mastered, the workflow is much simpler than an analog workflow.
We have seen many success stories from laboratories that have decided to move into digital dentistry. In one case, a small husband-and-wife laboratory went from producing 8 to 10 restorations per day to currently manufacturing more than 60 per day. They are in the process of purchasing their second Roland mill to keep up with their new workload.
In the end, CAD/CAM systems benefit more than the laboratory when it comes to quality, accuracy, and production. They also benefit the patient by allowing professionals to deliver a high quality product faster and more cost efficiently.
Brian Brooks is the product manager of dental solutions at Roland DGA.