Viewpoint: An Interview with Donnie Bridges, CDT, and Steaffani Dall
Inside Dental Technology sat down with Donnie Bridges, CDT, Eastern Regional Sales Manager, and Steaffani Dall, Western Regional Sales Manager, of Argen Corporation to discuss how Argen supports laboratory owners navigating the changing dental industry.
IDT: How is the dental laboratory landscape changing as forces such as technology and consolidation continue to be impactful?
Donnie Bridges, CDT: Digital integration into the laboratory environment has been explosive in recent years. When I left my family’s laboratory in 2009, we were probably around 65% PFM and 35% all-ceramic in the fixed department. Today, it’s not uncommon to see laboratories that are metal free. The increased efficiencies found through a digital workflow have allowed laboratories to respond to the pricing pressures of today’s market while maintaining a healthy profit margin. The increase in DSO dental practices and the lower price points they demand have forced laboratory owners to find these efficiencies.
IDT: Why is it important to have strong partners for both outsourcing and support for your internal technology?
Steaffani Dall: A strong partner for the dental laboratory is one who can support you in a number of ways and with a variety of products and services. When it comes to outsourcing, you need a reliable partner who can deliver consistent, esthetic results and fast turnaround times. After all, your outsource partner is an extension of your laboratory. Equally important is technical support for a laboratory’s software and equipment. A good technical support team is knowledgeable, well rounded, and helps your laboratory run smoothly and without interruption. At Argen, we’re dedicated to offering industry-leading support and have experts in 3Shape, exocad, mills, milling strategies, CAM software and IT, and more.
IDT: What strategies does Argen employ to help laboratories succeed in this evolving landscape?
SD: Keeping our finger on the pulse of the industry’s needs is right in our wheelhouse. As a resource to dental laboratories for more than 50 years, we must first consider what will keep the laboratory relevant, followed by how we can help them stay profitable. In this rapidly evolving landscape, there is a constant focus on our part to bring new products and to provide access to the latest technology. Ultimately, every investment we make is an investment in your dental business.
IDT: Why is it important to Argen to serve laboratories only and not sell directly to dentists?
DB: Argen has always been committed to dental laboratories and believes they are the backbone of the greater dental industry. This is a business philosophy that was always appreciated in my family’s laboratory. As a laboratory owner, you can feel like it’s you against the world. How can a family-run business compete against big companies who are servicing both the laboratory business and the laboratory’s dentist customer? At my family’s laboratory, we used to have vendors who sold products directly to dentists, which lowered their expenditures with our laboratory. Then those same companies would attempt to sell their laboratory products to us. Argen’s continued commitment to the laboratory industry is a philosophy that I always appreciated and one that I love to highlight now that I represent them. I believe it is a big differentiator for us.
IDT: What is the most common challenge you see when visiting laboratories, and how does Argen help address that challenge?
DB: One of the most common challenges that I see is finding experienced designers. Laboratory leaders understand that a digital workflow is the only way to increase efficiencies, but experienced designers are hard to come by. Argen saw this challenge and answered the need by creating our design services department. A laboratory can now send models to Argen and receive the final restoration back. Or, if they have a scanner, they can send that scanned file to Argen. We can design the case and send that design over to our production facility. The thought process behind our design services is to make it more convenient for a laboratory to order products (SLM, DPM, zirconia, custom abutments, models, digital dentures, etc.) from us. (To be clear, Argen does not design cases. There are other companies that chose that as their primary business model.) Another benefit to outsourcing your design and manufacturing is the increased consistency of costs to produce the unit. A laboratory owner who uses this service does not have to be concerned about fluctuating labor costs or busy times when overtime is inevitable.
IDT: Which trends are you most excited about, and how will those trends impact dental laboratories?
SD: Digital dentures and clear aligners undoubtedly top the list. In the past, dentures have lived predominately in the analog world requiring labor-intensive and time-consuming processes. Most recently, the advancements in printing and milling technologies and new materials have created more efficiencies for the laboratory with very appealing results. With the onset of digital dentures, it has also created more access for laboratories that might not have been able to offer dentures in the past. Whether you are looking for the economy-type denture or even high-end, there are options available.
Clear aligners help the laboratory remain an integral partner to their dental practices by providing their dentists a product that is gaining popularity with patients. It also offers the laboratory a new revenue stream and a way to grow their business.