The biggest limitation of a dental implant laboratory is its output capacity as this is what generates income. When I set up mine in 2016, I had limited capital and I knew that I would need to find innovative ways of achieving my target level of output. I also knew that to be successful, that output would need to be of a consistent high quality and delivered within reasonable timeframes.
From the very first day, therefore, I decided to build a digital implant solutions workflow and outsource all our customised abutment requirements to Dentsply Sirona’s Atlantis®. This meant that we could concentrate in-house on creating frameworks and restorations, secure in the knowledge that the abutments would be of the highest quality.
Five years later, we have 24 people across four sites and actually, we’re still using Atlantis as part of our digital implant solutions workflow.
THE BUSINESS BENEFITS OF DIGITAL
The term ‘digital implant solutions workflow’ strikes fear into some in our profession and that’s not a great surprise considering some of the press that digital dentistry has received. But my transition into digital, including my partnership with Atlantis, has proved how business-transforming it can be.
A first-class service
Digital breaks down geographical barriers between dental team members. Whereas in analogue days we relied on phone calls and both implant surgeon and technician interpreting as best they could what each other were trying to communicate, now there is no room for misunderstanding. I can send a virtual model of the patient’s teeth and our proposed restoration direct to my surgeon whenever I need to and immediately discuss the case with all the facts before us on screen.
Digital scans can often show the surgeon more detail than they were able to see in the clinic, such as a lingual cusp biting down. With the complete 360-degree view in front of them, they often adjust their prescription to provide an even better restoration. It’s about giving the surgeon all the information and time they need to make a good clinical decision.
The biggest winner is of course the patient. When the best treatment plan has been identified and agreed upon before any financial commitment has been made by ordering components or materials, there is less compromise. I came across many instances in traditional labs when components had been ordered ahead of time and the budget dictated that these had to be used even when the treatment plan was later altered.
In a digital implant solutions workflow, the treatment plan can be perfected before manufacture begins which leads to consistently successful outcomes. This enables us to stand out from our competitors and keeps our clients coming back to us.
A digital implant solutions workflow offers many opportunities to increase lab efficiency. Multitasking is much easier as I can switch between cases more quickly and whilst a client is reviewing the virtual model we’ve sent, my team can be working on other cases.
Better communication in the design stage results in fewer remakes or adjustments which have a huge impact on efficiency. Every business must be vigilant on wastage and remakes are the main cause of wastage in a lab. On top of that, output potential is reduced as technicians are called off paying cases to work on remakes.
Introducing CAD/CAM software into the lab also opens up opportunities to add more digital equipment, such as a milling machine, which can be integrated with existing software and provide further potential to increase efficiency and accuracy. Companies like Dentsply Sirona have opened up their systems so that it is much easier to build up compatible digital capabilities affordably as the business grows.
The flexibility to outsource
Many lab owners believe that it’s more profitable to do as much as possible in-house to keep costs low, and then search for the cheapest possible partners when they do need to outsource something like milling an abutment. In my opinion this is a false economy as it fails to take into account the business cost of their technicians’ time and decreased output potential.
Outsourcing abutments to Atlantis means we can spend 10 minutes making final adjustments rather than 40 minutes scanning and designing each abutment. Even if the cost per abutment from Atlantis is more, our output is quadrupled by using them and I save on CAD technician hours. I come across so many lab owners who don’t take this into account; it seems to be the best kept business secret there is for implant labs!
Moreover, we benefit from access to the experience and expertise of the Atlantis technical team. They say that you can only truly excel at something after 10,000 hours of practising; Atlantis specialise in abutments and design and manufacture them every day. When an Atlantis technician emails me to say there might be a better way of approaching a case, I listen, liaise with the surgeon and it’s normally to the benefit of the case.
Finally, it’s so easy with Atlantis 3D Editor, the web-based editing tool I use to review and edit the abutment designs. It takes me about 5 minutes to customise each abutment according to the preferences of my surgeons, allowing me to give that personalised service to each of my clients. What is more, I can do it wherever I am – in the lab, on the train, at home, wherever I have internet access.
A BUSINESS MODEL THAT WORKS
From a business point of view, the Atlantis team is an on-demand part of my lab team which I can use as my business demands, meaning I don’t need to worry about a large payroll burden during quiet periods or meeting deadlines in periods of high demand. If a milling machine fails or a technician is ill, it’s not my responsibility and I can still expect my abutments on time.
In the end, the aim of the whole dental team is to do the best for the patient. This is why I work with Dentsply Sirona whose focus is to help dental professionals provide better, safer and faster solutions for their patients. Adopting a digital implant solutions workflow and outsourcing to partners like Atlantis enables me to plan each case well and deliver it well. That’s a great business model and creates a win-win-win situation – for lab, surgeon and patient.
To find out more about Dentsply Sirona’s Outsourced Digital Implant Workflow please visit: www.dentsplysirona.com/atlantis
You can visit the online Dentsply Sirona Academy for a wide range of education resources, video tutorials, courses and CPD webinars at: www.dentsplysirona.com/ukeducation