Old-School Laboratory Creates New Revenue Stream With Digital Dentures
Quality, efficiency, support are keys to system that is quickly building strong reputation
Joe Lauterbach, owner of Lauterbach Dental Lab in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
New media and technology have led to countless new marketing and sales strategies for businesses in the 21st century, but Joe Lauterbach prefers the same one that has worked for his family’s dental laboratory for 50 years: Provide a quality product and rely on word of mouth.
Lauterbach Dental Lab, a medium-sized, full-service laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has never employed salespeople since Joe’s father, Francis, opened the business out of his home in 1966 along with Joe’s uncle Bill Recktenwald. They still do not have a website, though Joe says one is being developed.
“We remain viable because of our quality work,” Lauterbach says. “We are still a family-oriented laboratory. We succeed because we care about the dentist and the patient. When a dentist calls my laboratory about a case, he or she speaks to the person who is actually starting the case. Our department heads—myself, Dave Caruso, and Karen Rectenwald—answer the phones. Dentists do not need to speak first to an office staff member and then hope they are connected to the correct person.”
That does not mean the entire laboratory operates as if it were 1966. To the contrary, the commitment to quality dictated that they adopt CAD/CAM technology a few years ago. Lauterbach estimates 40% of his laboratory’s work is done digitally, and he says that number is increasing.
“There has been a learning curve associated with integrating digital technology into our workflow,” he says. “A lot of laboratories hire young computer specialists, but we do not believe in that. A dental background is important. If the person designing a case does not understand marginal ridges or proper clasping, for instance, the results will be poor.”
If the efficiency and accuracy of CAD/CAM technology are blended correctly with the expertise and artistry of an experienced dental technician, the results can be exceptional.
That is why Lauterbach says Pala Digital Dentures from Heraeus Kulzer are “the Cadillac of our laboratory.” Lauterbach first tried Pala Digital Dentures in February and has since used them for more than 35 cases. He hopes to reach a point when 50% of his laboratory’s removables are Pala.
“It has been wonderful,” he says. “Once the dentist is comfortable allowing me and my Heraeus Kulzer sales representative to be in the office and talk to the patient, we explain to the patient, ‘This is new technology. We are using software that will anatomically find the landmarks of your edentulous ridge. We will pick the proper size of the tooth for you. We will set these teeth in a position very close to how they would be if you had your natural dentition today.’ That is the driving point.”
The fit and efficiency have impressed Lauterbach’s dentist clients. The Pala process requires only 3 patient visits, which is especially appreciated by patients who are less mobile due to illness or age, Lauterbach says. The quality of the work has been outstanding, as well.
“We have something that can make your patient very happy,” Lauterbach says. “If you have a patient who has been wearing dentures for 20-30 years and is very dissatisfied with their smile and their look, this is allowing them to regain their confidence. This is bringing them vitality. Patients are saying, ‘I can’t believe that you have done this for me.’”
The laboratory also benefits in more direct ways. Because Heraeus Kulzer produces both the try-in and the final denture at its Pala Design Center, the additional workload for the laboratory is minimal.
“If I brought on 10 more clients with my analog cases, my staff would be buried,” Lauterbach says. “Pala Digital Dentures have allowed me to grow my business without overloading my staff or hiring additional employees.”
Hereus Kulzer’s support team has made it even easier. In addition to their sales representative accompanying him on trips to dentists’ offices, other Heraeus Kulzer representatives have provided invaluable help in integrating Pala into Lauterbach’s laboratory and also reaching out to potential new clients. Lauterbach says a recent visit to a nearby seminar attended by approximately 20 dentists yielded 2-3 genuinely interested potential clients. His laboratory also is listed in the “Find a Pala Laboratory” database at paladigitaldentures.com, and Heraeus Kulzer sets him up with third-party e-blasts to dentists.
Lauterbach’s primary strategy remains word of mouth, however, and he says he and his Heraeus Kulzer sales representative approach every visit to a dentist’s office as an opportunity to build the Pala system’s reputation. He also says he is experimenting with ways to improve the process even further.
“I have visions for this to take it to another level that would be wonderful for the patient,” Lauterbach says. “I have ideas for where I want it to go that are really exciting.
For more information, contact:
800-431-1785 • RSC #38