An Interview with Casey Conroy
Looking to the future of the laboratory industry
By Casey Conroy
Director of Sales, Laboratory CAD/CAM & Prosthetics
1. What have been the most important developments in the laboratory industry in the past year?
There is no doubt that the past year has brought us advancements of digital denture solutions, including an increase in the number of companies offering multiple zirconia platforms. But I believe the most important recent development in the laboratory industry would be the merger of two highly dedicated laboratory industry leaders—Dentsply and Sirona. I apologize if it sounds like I’m trying to wave the Dentsply Sirona flag, but this really is big news for our laboratory industry.
With this merger, we are a much stronger laboratory company focused squarely on the success of our laboratory partners. We really are positioned to be the dental laboratory solutions company. Sirona has a long and successful history of bringing the best CAD/CAM solutions to the dental laboratory industry. Dentsply also has a very long track record for developing innovative materials. The new Dentsply Sirona company offers true front-to-back solutions to our laboratory partners to help drive the results they demand.
2. How have new materials and technologies changed the roles of different dental team members?
The roles within the dental laboratory team continue to evolve along with new innovative material offerings and technologies. The key shift we see is the digital connectivity across the laboratory and the shift from an analog to digital workflow. I’ve been in the dental industry for 26 years with a good portion of my career dedicated to working with dentists and the clinical side of the business. I’ve watched technologies transform this industry over the years, but it surprised me when I came over to the laboratory side how CAD/CAM technologies have revolutionized the dental laboratory at a much greater pace.
Still, today, only 12-15% of US dentists have adopted digital impression systems, while over 52% of US dental laboratories are now accepting digital impression files and 90% of larger laboratories are accepting digital impression cases. US laboratories today must move quickly to keep up with technologies that facilitate the digital workflow. CAD/CAM restorations will continue to rapidly increase, so even the small laboratory must adapt if they want to compete in the marketplace.
3. How do you see the balance between artistry and technology evolving?
As we see continued innovation with materials such as translucent zirconia and other high strength glass, the decisions weighing the differences between esthetics and efficiencies have become less of a tradeoff. As technology evolves, the laboratory no longer has to sacrifice artistry for the sake of speed, as the two can work together. Great technicians are able to produce beautiful, accurate restorations more efficiently than ever before. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is watching talented technicians using their skills. They are the key to using technology to showcase their art.
4. As the industry changes, what is one traditional principle or value that should not be left behind?
The one traditional principle that should never be left behind is recognizing the value of the relationship between the laboratory and the dentist. As laboratories of all sizes continue to grow and change, we can’t lose sight of the basic value of the face-to-face relationships we have with our customers. Nobody wants to talk to a machine; we need that personal connection. Many of our industry surveys reveal the same thing. One of the top reasons a dentist will change laboratories is due to poor relationships or communication. Survey results have shown that the relationships dentists have with their laboratories are just as critical as turnaround time and competitive prices. This doesn’t just pertain to laboratories. As a manufacturer, we also focus on the relationships we have with our laboratory partners. Without our key relationships, we would be just another company waiting on the sidelines.
5. What do dental laboratories of all sizes need to do to remain viable and successful over the next 5, 10, and 20 years?
Laboratories of all sizes must continue to look for ways to track their performance and find ways to improve. Laboratories must also really understand regulatory compliance, which will continue to be even more of a pressing issue in the future. The best advice I can give our laboratory partners is to stay viable through all of this and rely on your manufacturer partners for support. Lean on your manufacturers and industry partners to help educate and support your team. As a manufacturer ourselves, helping our laboratory partners to be successful is what we do best.
I encourage laboratory owners and their staff to create more of a sense of community by taking advantage of the many study groups, such as the inLab Study Group on Facebook. Laboratories can learn so much from their professional peers who truly understand the struggles they are going through. Once laboratories and technicians see each other as part of a community and less as competition with each other, we all succeed.
Dentsply Sirona, Laboratory CAD/CAM and Prosthetics