February 2017
Volume 13, Issue 2

Crossing the Chasm: What does it mean to “cross the chasm” with regard to the pathways to digital integration in dentistry?

Chad Duplantis, DDS

Technology in dentistry is evolving at an astounding pace. As with all change, challenges and choices can create confusion. An adoption process exists for the integration of technology into any industry, and dentistry is no different. Author Geoffrey A. Moore sums up the process very well in Crossing the Chasm, which can help us learn much about our adoption process as dental consumers.

“Early adopters,” as labeled by Moore, experience both success and failure—the latter of which often occurs not because the product, device, or service was a failure, but simply because a true need did not exist yet and an easy outlet was available to avoid the new technology without disrupting workflow.

I implemented CAD/CAM dentistry into my practice in 2004 to cut into a hefty laboratory bill. However, through a very humbling learning process and many months of less-than-perfect restorative results, I resumed sending the majority of my restorative work to the laboratory.

Having never lost the urge to pursue restorative digital technology, I bought a digital intraoral impression scanner in 2012. By then, many changes had occurred in our profession. Competition among digital systems had led to incredible levels of accuracy and efficiency. The systems were more affordable. Laboratories embraced the technology and outpaced dentists.

The investment has become much more palatable, and the digital workflow has improved dramatically. Dentists can have extreme confidence in restorative results whether fabricated in a laboratory or in-office. Even when laboratories receive traditional impressions, the workflow often is transformed to digital, so it makes more sense to send a digital impression.

My new digital technology has led to reclaimed personal and professional satisfaction. Many patients are well educated on the advancements concerning their care, and they sense that our practice truly cares about proven technology.

I urge others to consider “crossing the chasm.” Digital dentistry has come a long way in the past 30 years. You will be glad you made the change, and you dentistry will improve.

Lee Culp, CDT

The first time I encountered digital dentistry, with Dr. François Duret at the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting more than 30 years ago, I was amazed. I knew immediately that some day digital technology would dominate the entire laboratory workflow, and I set out personally to cross that chasm sooner than later.

The first step was bringing digital dentistry into the laboratory, because when CEREC was initially introduced, the technology targeted only dental practices, but it was important for technology to encourage and facilitate collaboration rather than discourage it. I became involved in the development of a version for laboratories, and remember like it was yesterday when I saw a 3D tooth on the screen for the first time. It changed my life—and dentistry—forever.

The most difficult challenge I faced regarding digital integration was when I was tasked with converting a large laboratory group’s workflow from analog to CAD/CAM. I was not popular among the technicians at this company when the process started, primarily because they feared for their jobs. We pushed and pushed for 3 years, however, forcing the changeover. Once they finally put their fear behind them and realized the technology helped them do their jobs more efficiently, we reaped the benefits of productivity and scaling efficiencies.

Crossing the chasm requires a total commitment, not just dipping your toes in the water. Of course, adequate testing and planning are necessary, but at some point you must draw a line in the cement and cross over it.

Thanks to CAD/CAM and all the ancillary digital tools at our disposal, communication has never been better between laboratory, dentist, surgeon, and patient. It has helped us be more predictable in what we produce.

Both technicians and dentists continue to play crucial roles in the collaborative effort to push CAD/CAM further and further forward. The speed and effectiveness of this technological evolution depends on our commitment to cross that chasm.

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