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Inside Dental Technology
August 2014
Volume 5, Issue 8

An Economy of Words

Three-way dialogue gives an edge to all the players on your team

Susan van Kinsbergen

Many laboratory owners strive and even struggle to improve the quality of their products by investing in the education of their technicians and staying current with the rapidly changing technologic landscape. Laboratory owners are not alone in these efforts. Dentists want to enhance their patient care and increase revenue, so they train their staff and introduce the latest technology into their practices. Owners of dental-supply companies feel pressure to increase sales and stay relevant in the market.

By partnering with each other and keeping the patients’ needs at the forefront, the laboratory, dental practice, and supply company can all achieve their goals. To make this happen, communication is the key. As the baby-boomer population ages, laboratories and dental practices will be presented with more complex cases, making it more imperative that patients are the beneficiaries of a team approach

In the laboratory, the person with one of the most important roles in providing the patient with the best final restoration is the one who answers the phone. This individual is the conduit between the laboratory and dentist. The laboratory may need clarification on a case or possibly need more information than what was indicated on the prescription. Laboratory technical support also assists the dentist in choosing the best surgical or restorative options. This type of collaboration is valuable for everyone.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

No longer simply satisfied with a crown, patients now want tooth replacement. More communication tools are available to meet this demand. The days of getting a prescription that says only “PFM – A2” are drawing to a close. Whether the image is taken using a $10,000 camera or a $200 smartphone, digital photography has become an invaluable communication tool not only for shade documentation, but also for pre-operative, postoperative, and post-treatment images. This information is extremely helpful to the laboratory and should be included with every case whenever possible because such images can provide the technician with a wealth of information, facilitating fabrication of the most accurate and natural-looking restoration.

Going Digital

For decades, the dentist has used traditional impressions, bite records, and stone models to communicate with the laboratory. However, digital intraoral impression systems have been growing in popularity. These digital files can be merged with computed tomography scans to create three-dimensional images of the patient’s mouth and surrounding skeletal structures. The dentist, with input from the laboratory, can design the final restoration and work backward. Long before the patient sits in the chair for the procedure, the team has determined the implant placement and surgical options.

Other Pieces of the Puzzle

When considering the communication between the laboratory and dentist, we automatically think about the information the dentist provides the laboratory. However, diagnostic wax-ups, photographs of the case in progress, custom shades, reduction copings, and surgical guides are important ways the laboratory communicates with the dentist to ensure the patient is restored to a healthy and beautiful smile.

Dental-supply companies are also a significant part of the team, by offering technical support, information, and training on new products and technology to the practice and laboratory. They sponsor study clubs, offer educational opportunities to the community, and refer potential clients to a practice or laboratory. For example, an oral surgeon scans an implant with an intraoral scanner (IOS) at the time of surgery. The laboratory partners with the surgeon’s IOS and implant company in order to receive those digital scans for abutment and model fabrication. The laboratory designs the abutment from the digital file and sends it to the implant company. At the same time, a scan file is sent to the IOS company. The final restoration can be designed and fabricated by the laboratory while it waits to receive the abutment and model. This sounds straightforward, but for the process to be successful, clear communication and collaboration by all team members is necessary.

As an alternative, many companies, such as Core3dcentres, can be a one-stop shop, fabricating the model, abutment, and even final restoration. These entities remove many of the variables inherent in the process and their services have proven to be good options.

A Win-Win

The advantage to partnering with your local team members is that ultimately, you are helping to grow each other’s businesses. Many of the final crowns that the laboratory fabricates are done for a restorative dentist whom they don’t currently work with. The surgeon can usually dictate which laboratory receives the case. This gives them an opportunity to win the dentist’s business by providing a fabulous experience. The surgeon can expect to do more implants because this process is much easier on the patient. The implant company then sells more implants and abutments, and the IOS company sells more models. The team approach can benefit everyone involved, and most importantly, the patient. When we have common goals and work together to achieve them, everyone wins.

About the Author

Susan van Kinsbergen is the owner of SvK Consulting in Newport Beach, CA.

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