An Interview with Steve Sheehan
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): There is no shortage of CAD/CAM systems on the marketplace. How can dental laboratories ensure they purchase the right system for their business?
Steve Sheehan (SS): When considering the purchase of a CAD/CAM system, it is important for a laboratory to consider several factors including, cost, unit production, and intended use. Trends toward systems that offer access to multiple milling centers, have high unit production capability, and feature a user-friendly interface will be systems that are most attractive to laboratory buyers. Based on the expectation for functionality, there are a number of good systems from which to choose. For example, laboratories restoring Straumann implants have the choice of purchasing our CS2 system, which gives the user access to Straumann’s centralized milling, as well as the option of an external workflow capability that allows the laboratory to export cases to other milling sources.
IDT: How will digital dentistry continue to impact the dental laboratory and the laboratory’s traditional business strategies?
SS: The trend toward digital dentistry will gain greater acceptance and momentum as advances in CAD/CAM production efficiencies, intraoral scanning, and chairside restorative processes continue to evolve. Laboratories that invest in digital workflows will have an advantage in gaining production efficiencies over those that continue to use traditional, non-digital processes. As restorative cases become more complex with treatment plans that include screw-retained bars and bridges and the so-called “All-on-Four” prosthetics, laboratories will need to be able to adjust to the changing market trends in order to continue to provide value to their referral sources by adapting their businesses to focus more attention on these types of cases.
IDT: How can dental laboratories increase their value to their GPs and specialists?
SS: This is an interesting challenge for dental laboratory owners, as they traditionally rely on their referral sources to give them a free hand in the restorative process. However, with the changes in technology and materials, as well as their suppliers marketing directly to their customers, it will become increasingly important for laboratories to demonstrate the value that they can bring to a case as a member of the restorative team. In order to accomplish this, laboratories need to take the initiative and market their capabilities to their referrals. They must create value-based relationships based on their technical knowledge and expertise, as well as in providing services that cannot be achieved without their help. More and more often, simple, single tooth restorations are being supplied by larger domestic dental laboratories or offshore competitors, making it increasingly important for laboratories to focus on more complex restorative cases.
IDT: What should a dental laboratory look for when choosing a company to partner with for their digital solutions?
SS: From my viewpoint, laboratories need to take into consideration whether the company is investing in the future of digital dentistry and evaluate how and where that company is investing. Companies worthy of partnership are those that see the value of digital processes and are investing in developing new technologies that will help advance digital workflows. For implant borne tooth restorations, laboratories should look to partner with companies that have the ability to address the widest patient population as possible. This will give laboratories access to more restorative cases and allow them to offer higher quality and more profitable services.
IDT: How does Straumann demonstrate its commitment to the laboratory industry?
SS: Dental laboratories are a key partner during the restorative process. As implant and tooth borne prosthetics are a large and important segment of the Straumann product portfolio, it stands to reason that a strong partnership with dental laboratories is one of the critical keys to the continued growth of our prosthetic brand. Our ongoing investment in dental products and services shows we are committed to partnering with laboratories to provide the best experience for our mutual customers. The dental laboratory is the gatekeeper to the restorative process, and our approach is to work with laboratories and partner in the restorative process to provide a higher level of restorative choices for the referral base and patient.
At Straumann we’ve structured a support team in Andover to meet the various needs a laboratory owner faces. Our technical support team delivers an unparalleled level of customer service. We have trained CDTs on-staff to answer questions on Straumann CARES®, and we have a structured education approach that begins the moment we set the scanner up in the laboratory. Our educational approach includes a comprehensive multi-day training session with experienced CDTs to get partner laboratories up to speed on the CARES software, and ongoing webinars and continuing education programs for laboratories and their customers. We’ve launched a number of marketing tools this year that our laboratories are using to reach out to new referrals and grow their business. Also, our specialized laboratory staff is committed to helping our customers drive business growth through education and marketing programs that fit their needs.
Steve Sheehan is Vice President, Laboratory Division at Straumann North America.