Implants Present Growing Opportunities for Small Laboratories
A growing trend that is here to stay
By Jason Mazda
Three million people in the US have dental implants, and that number is growing by 500,000 a year, according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID). While only 10% of all US dentists place implants currently, the AAID projects that percentage to rise as demand for implants becomes greater.
Thus, laboratories should be able to accommodate implant cases—or risk losing clients.
“Some small laboratories, when a dentist asks for a bar, they refer the case to a competitor,” says Bernard Robichaud, Cofounder of Panthera Dental, which specializes in CAD/CAM prosthetic implant solutions. “In doing that, they allow the possibility of their client developing a good relationship with the competitor and eventually sending all cases—not just implants—there.”
The growth of the implant market is due, in large part, to the precision afforded by the latest CAD/CAM technology. A near-perfect fit down to the last micron is paramount when fabricating bars and abutments, and today’s machines can produce the necessary accuracy. With that capability now a reality, implants are an increasingly attractive treatment option for using in patients with partially or fully edentulous situations.
“With traditional bridges, we take 2 healthy teeth and wear them off to put the pontic in the middle. Why do we do that?” Robichaud says. “Patients have started to realize that also. The implant industry is growing because that is what makes sense.”
Two general options exist for laboratories looking to get involved in implant dentistry: Purchase the necessary equipment to mill abutments and bars in-house, or identify an outsource partner. The former requires a significant investment and training, so companies such as Panthera attempt to make outsourcing as simple and beneficial as possible for laboratories.
“The number-one goal of a milling center should be to accommodate any design file it receives,” Robichaud says. “Then, the final product should not require any adjustments. If you purchase a car, you should not need to attach the steering wheel yourself. The laboratory should not need to waste valuable time finishing the bar.”
As new technology becomes available, the potential of the implant market is seemingly limitless. Robichaud says digital dentistry eventually could allow laboratories to completely change how they design implant cases.
“Even in 2015, we still start doing the structure and then we adapt the smile to support the structure,” Robichaud says. “We all know this is the wrong way, and today we are starting to see the proper equipment to allow us to create the smile and then adapt the structure. We are going to have to rethink the whole concept of how we create an implant, how we position an implant, and how we treat a patient who needs an implant.”