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An Interview with Alex Thomas
Technology is changing the dental industry every day, and DT Technologies General Manager Alex Thomas expects that there is more to come.
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): What new realities are impacting the dental industry?
Alex Thomas (AT): One of the latest developments is the rapid increase in the number of laboratories expanding their product lines and producing more restorations in-house due to advances in CAD/CAM technology and the affordability of these systems. While this is great for our industry, it is also significantly increasing the level of competition. Other than this, the same realities that have threatened laboratories in the past are still present and will continue to pressure labs. Dentists are purchasing intraoral and model scanners, and even milling equipment, as they continue to move toward digital dentistry. Pricing (laboratory-to-laboratory and laboratory-to-doctor) is also competitive as ever.
IDT: How can the average laboratory best meet these challenges?
AT: Education, technology, partnerships, and marketing. Today, the average laboratory falls somewhere between actively pursuing its first CAD system and considering an additional CAD system or first milling machine. No matter the scenario, it’s extremely important to research all of the available options, run the return on investment calculators, and contact others in the industry about their experiences. Education will lead to the system that makes the most sense for a laboratory and its customers. Adding new or additional CAD/CAM equipment allows laboratories to control costs better by reducing their outsourcing bills, while also expanding their product lines and services to their accounts. Additionally, depending on the system, the laboratory will gain the ability to accept intraoral scans. Lastly, once you have the equipment that suits your facility, you need to market yourself. Inform practices of the new services you can provide and cross-sell these same services to your existing accounts.
IDT: What should a dental laboratory look for in a CAD/CAM partner?
AT: Just that, a partner. Service and support may be the most important determinant to choosing a system. Choose a partner that uses the same equipment and products for its own production. Once a laboratory receives the equipment, there will be a learning curve. Having the ability to send more complex products and cases to the company you purchased your equipment from is a huge advantage. The support team and technicians will be able to explain the process to broaden your knowledge of your investment, allowing you to take care of the same case on your own the next time. These companies are dedicated to the equipment they offer and are consistently improving through research and development.
IDT: What new products and technologies are you implementing at your laboratory?
AT: With our advanced equipment and technical staff, we are able to produce more complex cases in-house. We’re also focused on implant abutments, bars, and full-arch screw-retained bridges. The addition of SLM services has proved to be another cost-effective, quality product line as well.
IDT: What business strategies has your company put in place to ensure its future and help other laboratory businesses?
AT: At Dental Arts Laboratories and DT Technologies, we work to stay at the forefront of dental technology. We’ve developed multiple partnerships that allow us to use open, versatile CAD/CAM equipment in our facilities and to offer this same equipment to other laboratories. Having a proven business model with this equipment, we’ve been able to help other laboratories make a successful transition. Finally, throughout the company, we are completely dedicated to continuing education, marketing programs, and research and development.
IDT: What do you think the industry will look like in five years?
AT: I think we can expect a significant increase in dental practices with intraoral scanners due to improvements in the technology and an overall availability and affordability. I also believe we can look forward to a collaborative work environment between laboratories and dentists, both sides coming together to deliver advanced solutions for patient treatment.