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Discovering the Dimensions of the Digital Workflow
How Planmeca’s Planscan digital impression system contributed to the growth of a small dental laboratory
When he completed his service, Fincher was firmly established as a dental technician and then launched a civilian career, operating laboratories within larger companies. Then, in 2009, he decided to leverage his reputation among the Dallas dental community and opened his own laboratory as a one-man shop.
Since then, his laboratory has grown to a staff of 11, with eight technicians, including him. “I used to work with 50 people or more, but I enjoy operating a smaller laboratory, and the nice thing about digital is that it allows you to do just that,” he says.
According to Fincher, he chose the E4D system (now Planmeca Planscan) 4.5 years ago based on the quality of the restorations. “We technicians like to believe that no machine can do a better job than we can, so it was important to me that whatever system I bought could do just as good a job—if not better—yet be very productive.” The Planscan system, he says, “was like finding a machine that’s just like the perfect technician. It has made us better and definitely more productive.”
Describing how he has incorporated Planscan into his workflow and overall business model, Fincher explains that the first step is usually pouring the model because most of his client–dentists are still sending traditional impressions, which need to be digitally scanned into the system.
Nevertheless, Fincher says the system has sped up fabrication and allowed him to reduce turnaround times. “It’s just more efficient. After the models are poured, they go straight into the scanning room. So if it’s something that will have a framework design, it’s already being immediately virtually designed the same day it has been scanned.”
Fincher says his two Planmeca mills run constantly during the workday, producing 85% of his laboratory’s crowns. “It is my main producer in the laboratory. It keeps our entire workflow going.” He says the ceramists—a total of three, including Fincher—are able to complete their work more quickly because they start with a higher-quality restoration. “We’re touching up something that is already so nice that we just have to do the finishing touches,” he asserts.
Fincher says the system has also improved accuracy because—unlike humans—it is consistent. “Whether it’s Monday morning or Friday afternoon, it’s fully awake and on the job.”
Fincher says although he can complete everything from single units to veneers, inlays and onlays, and bridgework, his laboratory is still equipped to provide traditional services. “There are still some dentists who want more of the old style, with ceramic veneered or stacked on top of frameworks. Sometimes, we also may need to cast a bridge or metal framework; we have a technician who does hand waxing for cases that need it for certain things.” Fincher maintains that the addition of Planmeca’s Romexis® image management software has not only further increased efficiency, but it has also helped his laboratory grow in new directions. “It is opening up our exposure to so many new markets and areas for the laboratory that we weren’t able to incorporate before.” he explains. “It’s under one umbrella, making treatment planning more of an A-to-Z process. We don’t have to try to get different machines from different manufacturers to communicate. Now we have a software umbrella that incorporates everything,” he says.
Fincher discloses that he had not previously considered helping dentists with implant case planning and placement planning using surgical guides and 3D imaging. Planmeca’s Romexis allows the true collaboration of an open system. “We can now work as a team and case-plan together. Even though our software is different, we can view the case together with the input from all team members because Romexis manages the images from the specialists and allows for 2D, 3D, and digital scans to be layered, so it’s added a dimension that I didn’t even anticipate.”
Observing that the clinician and laboratory technician have different but equally valuable perspectives on the restoration, Fincher says, “At the laboratory, we plan the case from the tooth backwards—that is, we’re thinking about the final restoration, while the clinician is trying to determine the best place to put the implant. Now, we’re meeting in the middle.”
This, he says, is another win-win situation using the E4D technology backed by Planmeca software and other resources. “We are working together to find a solution that is best for the patient.”
Working with new technology has opened more doors than Fincher ever thought possible. He speaks and teaches to dentists and other laboratory owners on digital workflow and collaboration. “Although some of my colleagues are fearful of the transition, digital scanning has actually helped me to build better relationships with my customers and expand my business nationally.”
Planmeca PlanScan™ Scanner
Planmeca PlanScan captures the oral environment with precision, reproducing all of the anatomical details registered by the impression and delivers accurate 3D models for more clinically precise prosthetics. Each scanner is equipped with three removable tips, as well as an adapter, cable, and cradle. The two-piece cradle features a weighted base, or can be wall-mounted or separated to fit into a standard handpiece caddy.
Disclaimer: The preceding material was provided by the manufacturer. The statements and opinions contained therein are solely those of the manufacturer and not of the editors, publisher, or the Editorial Board of Inside Dental Technology.
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