An Interview with Steve Sheehan
Steve Sheehan, Vice President Lab Division of Straumann North America, discusses the changing role of the laboratory in the rapidly evolving dental implant arena.
Inside Dental Technology: What oral health, dental practice, and dental laboratory trends will impact the industry in the next 5 years?
Steve Sheehan: Today, dental implant surfaces that can accelerate healing times can offer tooth-replacement solutions that are rapid, provide immediate function, and cause minimal disruption to the patient’s daily life. The growth of the immediate fixed prosthesis on dental implants is a game-changer for the laboratory industry. Knowledge of the fundamentals of treating of an edentulous patient is key to the success of these full-arch restorations. The denture technician can play a valuable role in both the execution of a successful immediate-load provisional restoration and in the education of the members of the treatment team including the surgeon and restorative dentist.
With Straumann® Pro Arch, we now have a comprehensive solution that includes implants, abutments, and CAD/CAM frameworks that enable clinicians and technicians to provide fixed full-arch treatments.
IDT: How will digital technologies evolve to meet the needs of practitioners and technicians impacted by these trends and help the dental team improve patient care?
SS: Improvements in chairside milling technology will lead to growth and will challenge the dental laboratory to provide additional value-added services that lead to more complex and valuable cases. Smaller laboratories will be affected by the increase in the practice of in-house milling of titanium by larger competitors making the need for outsourcing more important to remain competitive.
By embracing the technologies such as surgical planning software and treatment planning services that lead to fully integrated digital workflows, the dental laboratory can become the subject matter expert for prosthetically driven implant planning. These and other value-added services provide successful treatment outcomes and will be the key to growth and remaining relevant in the future.
IDT: Implants have become a more in-demand solution for missing dentition in recent years. What are the key drivers of growth and how do you see this trend developing?
SS: Increased awareness of dental implants by both patients and the general practitioner (GP)/restorative community has led to GPs taking an interest in placing implants. This will drive the growth of implant placement over the next several years, and it presents an opportunity for the laboratory technician to step in and serve as a consultant and local thought leader on the restorative options for their traditional restorative customer.
Over the last few years, partnering directly with surgeons is a business model that has proven to be a valuable way to grow a laboratory’s business and local influence. In our world, this partnership usually is facilitated by the dental implant representative. It has shown to grow business for both, improve patient care, and increase referrals from GPs to these practices.
IDT: What areas of implant dentistry, today and in the future, will provide laboratories with value-based and competitive business opportunities?
SS: New applications will expand implant therapy (short implants, all-ceramic implants) to allow implant therapy in previously unsuited indications. In turn, the laboratories need to be cognizant of these new developments, and understand the corresponding prosthetics, planning kits, and treatment protocols in order to be the partner of choice with these forward-thinking specialists.
The complex esthetic or full-arch cases will continue to be referred to specialists. Those specialists require skilled laboratory partners to deliver accurate final restorations.
By partnering with implant representatives, laboratories will begin to understand the local landscape and become aware of the high-value cases going on in their area. These are the types of restorations that cannot be restored by the chairside mills.
IDT: How important will continuing education be for technicians as implant dentistry evolves and technology plays an ever greater role?
SS: A good denture technician and knowledge about the fundamentals of rehabilitating a fully edentulous patient are becoming increasingly important. Many clinicians have avoided providing edentulous therapies to their patients. These clinicians who now want to get involved with fixed immediate therapies will need to align with a strong laboratory partner that understands the more fundamental aspects of dentures. They also will need to re-learn the fundamentals required to treat edentulous patients. Training of their staff in the maintenance and aftercare for these patients is vital.
The laboratory that is at the forefront of implant-industry trends and prioritizes continuing education will prosper. Utilizing the local dental implant representative or the implant company’s corporate education programs is key.