An Interview with Chris Bormes
Chris Bormes, President of PREAT Corporation, discusses the changing role of the dental technician as part of the restorative team now and in the future.
Inside Dental Technology: In what ways has the dental laboratory industry changed since you entered it?
Chris Bormes: There have been fundamental changes to the core of the profession. When I joined the industry, PFM or ceramo-metal was the most popular type of restoration. Now, the majority of fixed restorations are monolithic. Magazine articles 20 years ago featured cases with 18 layers of porcelain, different stacking techniques, etc. The highlights of tradeshows were ceramics, whereas now these tradeshows focus on CAD/CAM, monolithic restorations, denture teeth, implants, and removables. There is more of a balance between production work and high-end artistry.
In recent years, economic forces have pressured laboratories to reduce prices, and laboratories have figured out a way to thrive — whether by increasing their quality in order to successfully offer higher-priced options, or by producing more units utilizing technological advances. It is almost as if we have watched our industry grow up.
IDT: How has the dental technician’s role within the dental prosthetic team evolved?
CB: Dentists used to instruct technicians, “Make this work.” The prosthetic team did not have much say regarding case design. Today, dentists need technicians more than ever. The better the dentist is, the more he or she realizes the need for a relationship and partnership with a good technician. It is invaluable.
The amount of continuing education and knowledge that many technicians obtain is amazing. Especially with full-arch restorations and other complex cases, technicians are on par with the oral surgeon and the restorative dentist, and the technician has absolutely earned the right to have equal standing in that relationship. I cannot imagine trying to be a successful dentist now without having a great technician or team of technicians.
IDT: Is there still room for more growth as laboratories continue to realize the opportunities presented by new technologies and increased demand for implants and removables?
CB: Absolutely. All the numbers and statistics that I monitor point to huge growth in the future. The 65-and-older population is projected to grow from 40 million to 70 million in the next 20 years, and 33% of that population is edentulous or partially edentulous. Those are our potential clients; 94% of the restored edentulous population is not supported by implants, so they are potential customers for implants and overdentures. The demand will only increase.
At the same time, technicians’ skills will continue to be more in demand and valuable. I am excited when I travel to laboratories and see how technicians are using digital technology not only as a tool to increase the number of units they are producing but also to create beautiful work. Digital technology will not reduce the role of the technician. The fundamentals of basic oral engineering that is required when working with attachments and implants will always be important. Those fundamentals will be used for every case, whether we are waxing and setting teeth at the bench, or using a mouse and keyboard.
IDT: As a manufacturer, how do you counsel a laboratory owner who might be offering implants or removables for the first time?
CB: I would recommend entering this arena sooner rather than later, because it is such a promising segment of the industry. It is important, however, to find both the right personnel and the right companies to partner with who will support your growth.
IDT: How do you envision the future for the industry as technology, in particular for implant dentistry, continues to evolve?
CB: We will continue to see the increased partnership evolution between the oral surgeon, restorative dentist, and dental technologist. With rapid prototyping and 3D printing, and quick digital file transfers, members of the dental team can be in three different parts of the country and be on the same page. The technician will need to understand all aspects of treatment in order to be a resource for the entire restorative team as they consider treatment options. A good manufacturer partner can help in this regard as well.
There will be a huge demand for dental professionals who understand the fundamentals of removable prosthetics. There also will still be a market for high-end, handcrafted restorations. Not every patient will want monolithic zirconia, and some will pay more for higher-end restorations. Boutique laboratories have a great niche.
Dentistry’s future will be driven by patients who demand to retain their youthful appearance. We are dealing with patients who want to look good. Despite all the challenges we face, the future of the profession looks bright.