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Accuracy, Efficiency of CAD/CAM Help High-End Laboratory
As collaborative dentistry becomes more important with the increasing prevalence of complex cases and CAD/CAM technology, Gail Johnson, CDT, has an unusual perspective that helps her relate to her clinician counterparts. The owner of Perfect Impressions dental laboratory in Plano, Texas, at one time studied to be a dental hygienist, and she got her start as an in-house technician for a dentist.
Johnson found that her favorite part of the restorative process was the laboratory work, so she learned those skills and in 1986 opened Perfect Impressions, a high-end, boutique-style laboratory that specializes in all-ceramic crown-and-bridge work.
In building her business, Johnson has capitalized on her experience working in a dental practice to help her provide the best quality and service possible.
“The experience of performing custom shade matches in the office was valuable, and we host patients in our laboratory for that,” Johnson says. “I also learned how dentists seat crowns, how they operate, and how valuable their time is—how important it is to deliver a case on time and never reschedule. Seeing our work go into the patient’s mouth was very impactful as well.”
A strong understanding of the dentist’s perspective was invaluable as Johnson built her business. She related to her technicians how, for example, an insufficient amount of reduction might be easily noticeable on an articulator but more difficult to see chairside.
About 10 years ago, Johnson purchased her first CAD/CAM system, which presented entirely new opportunities to interact and collaborate with dentists.
“We are able to create far more esthetic work than we did even 20 years ago,” she says.
Approximately 75% of the cases that Perfect Impressions receives are from digital impression systems. While the laboratory’s production capabilities have increased with a more efficient workflow, though, the philosophy of providing high-end, boutique-style restorations remains intact.
“Our focus remains on building relationships and partnering with the dental office,” Johnson says. “That is very, very important to me.”
Perfect Impressions hosts “Technology Nights” at the laboratory to educate dentists on the benefits of digital impression scanners.
“I encourage all of our clinicians to use intraoral impression scanners,” Johnson says. “It saves them—and everyone else involved—time, and it makes them better dentists. When they see their preparations on a large screen, it’s amazing how much clearer and more accurate their preparation design is. Digital impressions have helped us reduce our remake rate to less than 1%.”
For optimal results, Johnson recommends the Planmeca PlanScan from Planmeca CAD/CAM Solutions.
“Dentists have small operatories,” she says. “Most of them do not have an abundance of space. They want something simple to use. The PlanScan chairside scanner has a smaller footprint, so they can be more comfortable using it.”
Planmeca’s CAD/CAM technology is open architecture to integrate with other open systems. Perfect Impressions utilizes the Planmeca suite of hardware and software so the integration is seamless from Planmeca PlanScan chairside units.
“We see the scans almost immediately after they are sent, rather than waiting for them to load,” Johnson says. “This allows us to communicate in a quicker and more accurate way with the dentist.”
Planmeca CAD software, she says, has served the laboratory well for both in-house milling and outsourcing of products such as custom abutments.
“The software is very easy and user-friendly,” Johnson says. “The steps are very clear and efficient, and the entire program is extremely intuitive. It is also constantly improving.”
The software also allows Perfect Impressions to receive scans from any intraoral impression system.
“The open architecture allows us to do business effectively and efficiently with almost any dentist who uses a chairside impression scanning system,” she says.
For dentists who still have not adopted digital technology, Johnson uses the Planmeca desktop scanner that provides seamless integration with the rest of her machines.
“One of the biggest advantages of this scanner is its size,” she says. “We work on large cases that are mounted on semi-adjustable articulators, and we can place the entire model in the scanner, whereas with other scanners we would need to take everything off the articulator and redesign the case in an effort to scan the model.”
Overall, Planmeca’s CAD/CAM technology helps Perfect Impressions work more efficiently and effectively with dentists.
“This technology has allowed us to serve our clients better and to fulfill our responsibility to provide the highest-quality all-ceramic restorations,” Johnson says.
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