A New Dawn in Dental Technology
As a technician who was trained with a Bunsen burner and wax, throughout the years, I have seen a major shift in dental technology. More recently, these shifts have been storming in at a very fast pace. New technology and materials are being thrown at us on an almost daily basis, promising to make our lives easier and give our clients better results. As a business owner and a hands-on technician, this can become very overwhelming and force you to question your existence in the current marketplace. Personally, I have seen a shift in my own business as more and more of my clients have been using words like “milled, machined, and CAD” on our incoming prescriptions. At first, I was a little anxious because many of my friends who were early adopters of CAD/CAM told me horror stories about losing a lot of money or tarnishing their laboratory’s reputation due to the learning curve associated with these new technologies.
I believe that the first thing technicians and laboratories must do in today’s changing market is to define who and what they are. Create a vision of who you are as well as who you would like to become. My laboratory has always fabricated prescriptions by hand, resisting the changing state of technology; however, I have reached a point where instead of fighting the technology and new materials, I would like to embrace them.
Purchasing a CAD system was a very scary experience for me. Because I have spent the majority of my life learning the skills required to become a master dental technician, I found myself always reverting back to my hands when the machine would not do what I liked. After fighting through this learning curve throughout years of clinical cases, I can finally say that at my laboratory, CAD/CAM is here to stay. The results that I am achieving phenomenally meet my expectations and those of my clients. Checking the work under a microscope, I am sometimes amazed at what these machines can produce. Once everything is designed, milled, and checked, one of my technicians or I sign off on it. For me, this process has become crucial to my business and the output of consistent quality. With an experienced dental technician operating the system, it’s like that technician now has eight more arms. More of the “heavy lifting” or “foundation work” can be optimized, which in turn allows for greater concentration on the highly skilled aspect of the work.
When it comes to new materials, technicians are faced with a barrage of information from the scientific literature and online sources. It can all become very confusing. Pressable materials are a huge part of the business of many laboratories, and I believe that the existence of monopolies had been cornering them into only using certain materials. However, with advances in research by many companies, new materials have been brought to market that allow for more freedom. GC America recently launched a lithium disilicate pressable that provides a new alternative when pressing out restorations. Combining a nice library of natural teeth with a lithium disilicate allows labs to produce a very high-quality restoration, while still keeping an eye on the business side of the lab.
It may sound funny to some who know me, but this is the harsh reality that technicians are facing. Although machines are being used in every field to optimize business and maintain quality standards, there will always be a place in dentistry for skilled technicians who make restorations by hand, so I wouldn’t worry too much. On the other hand, if you are running a small business and completely ignoring the technological changes happening in the industry, survival could get tough. Today’s technology is our friend if we embrace it. It has become cliché to say that “it’s just another tool,” but that’s all it is—a tool. With an untrained technician behind the wheel, you’ll still get inferior results. However, with a skilled technician behind the wheel, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten—amazing work.
About the Author
Joshua Polansky, MDC, is the owner of Niche Dental Studio in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.