Growing from Boutique to Mid-sized
Next-generation materials, technology make the transition smooth
Only a few short years ago, Joshua Polansky, MDC, was working out of what he only half-jokingly calls "two closets" in a dental practice in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Even when he relocated Niche Dental Studio to nearby Voorhees, New Jersey, it was still the classic small, boutique laboratory with three to four employees, one milling machine, and one 3D printer. No longer is that the case, however; Polansky's laboratory today covers approximately 4,000 square feet after taking over the unit next door, and he has 11 employees, four milling machines, and three 3D printers. "We have just been on fire," Polansky says. "The work just keeps coming. We have approximately three to five new dentists call per week, to the point where we need to be selective."
Making the transition to legitimate mid-sized laboratory has not been easy. Polansky says he spends most of his time on quality control now, only getting more involved on cases when patients are paying extra.
"It is a challenge," he says. "As a small, boutique laboratory, the majority of your decisions are very technically based; they are about teeth and cases. Now, most of my decisions are based on the employees who depend on me for their health, safety, and livelihood. I have a very competent team that I need to trust with the technical decisions so I can focus on strategic planning and execution. It has not been easy because I am a dental technician; I did not go to school for any of this. You learn on the job, and it does not get easier."
One of the biggest challenges as a laboratory owner today is hiring skilled talent. Polansky says he has learned to practice patience in that regard, and when skilled dental technicians become available—such as Lucas Lammott, CDT, who will soon merge his laboratory with Polansky's—the key becomes creating a good environment to retain them.
"The worst thing you can do is prioritize hiring someone immediately when you have an opening," he says. "You need to hire the right person. I need real technicians. In the meantime, there are outsourcing solutions available to help."
Even with skilled technicians, Polansky also depends on digital technology to help manage his caseload and maintain a smooth workflow.
"A few years ago, CAD/CAM might not have been entirely necessary," he says, "but today, if you do not have digital technology, I can firmly say, ‘Best of luck to you in this industry.' It is not physically possible to work the way we are working without digital technology and the materials at our disposal today. We are not working in the same industry as when I started."
In order to maintain his lofty standards for esthetics and function while utilizing an efficient digital workflow, Polansky uses Amann Girrbach's Ceramill Zolid DNA generation zirconia in the company's Ceramill Matik mill. With super high-translucent, high-translucent, and low-translucent options, the Zolid DNA generation provides high-end esthetics and strength.
"We have a whole new generation of materials," Polansky says. "Zirconia got a bad reputation in its infancy stages because of the opacity and lack of options. Today's multilayer options and translucency are game-changers. Using a Zolid FX multilayer puck with a good tooth library in your CAD software can really level the playing field. That is another reason we have been able to scale."
Even better, milling the Zolid DNA generation zirconia on Amann Girrbach's Ceramill Matik ensures that technicians can focus on the tasks that require the most skill, rather than tedious functions involved with operating a mill. Polansky cites the Matik's 36-puck changer and automatic cleaning as most impactful. Additionally, the mill can automatically replace broken burs, preventing workflow disruptions.
"The Amann Girrbach workflow has almost added an employee to our laboratory," Polansky says. "The reliability of the automation allows us to plan and strategize more effectively. We can literally set up a week's worth of jobs, both dry and wet milling, and trust that those jobs will be completed without manual operation. When you consider the time required for an employee to operate a mill and also the room for error that is introduced by the human element, the Matik is really a worthwhile investment."
With such quality technology and materials, Polansky has been able to grow his business without sacrificing the quality upon which he built his reputation earlier in his career.
"When you start way ahead by using a natural tooth library, and then mill from very nice translucent material, and add the skills of a trained dental technician at the end, you dominate," he says.
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