Not more, just better

Jan. 1, 2011
There are a lot of articles out there about making bad relationships between dentists and lab technicians into good ones simply through more communication.

By James Carroll, DMD, and Shane Treadaway

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: digital impressions, dentist/lab relationship, Dr. James Carroll, Shane Treadaway.

There are a lot of articles out there about making bad relationships between dentists and lab technicians into good ones simply through more communication. But what if you already have a good relationship with your lab? What if you respect their work and they respect yours? Is this the pinnacle of a successful relationship? As we have learned the past year, there is an entirely new level in terms of a strengthened lab/dentist relationship, and it all begins with digital impressions.

Things are good, and getting better

As we have alluded to already, our lab/dentist relationship is a strong one based on mutual respect and the quest for perfection in every case. We have been using polyether impressions for many years, and the results have been excellent.

Of course, accuracy is only one of the concerns with the impression process. There is also chair time and overall productivity to consider, and when it comes to traditional impressions, the process just takes longer. We both wanted accuracy, but we also wanted faster turnaround.

With traditional impressions, there is a longer time through the mail, phone conversations where you are both trying to visualize what only one of you is looking at, longer seating time, and more. We both wanted better communication. Not just more, better. There had to be another way.

Unbeknownst to us, we were each researching digital impressions as a technology we thought would be beneficial in our respective businesses. It was clear we were on the same page when a call to the lab started with, "I’ve been giving digital impressions a lot of thought …" and the response was, "Funny you should mention that."

Once we realized we both had an interest in the technology, we started outlining what each of our goals would be if we brought this technology into our workflow. With this accomplished, we selected a manufacturer that we both felt comfortable dealing with and began working the technology into the practice and lab.

Good to great the digital way

Bringing digital impressioning into the practice really seemed like a no-brainer for both of us. In fact, we collaborated on the business side of things, as well as the clinical.

With the practice committed to a certain amount of business with Pittman Dental Laboratory, the lab was interested in offering a rebate that basically washed out the monthly payment for the new equipment. This commitment helped both of us see how much our team was interested in moving forward.

In our case, we chose to work with 3M ESPE, so when the Lava™ Chairside Oral Scanner C.O.S. showed up at the dental office and we completed a couple of days of training, it was off to the races!

As case after case went in the books, it was amazing to see how the relationship between the dental office and dental lab, which was already good, got even better. Instead of mailing out traditional impressions, we are sending digital impressions, and the response from the lab is phenomenal.

In less than 24 hours, the lab technician at Pittman can view a digital file in 3-D and let me know if anything needs to be discussed. Nothing goes in the mail. If there is a question, the lab can e-mail screen captures of the digital impression directly to the practice for discussion.

We both look at the same details at the same time, which makes a huge difference! Plus, digital impressions are so accurate that the dental practice hasn’t had a remake in 500 cases so far this year.

Smart communications

Now, don’t get me wrong, going digital with impressioning is not a magic bullet. You still need a solid foundation of basic skills and techniques to take a great digital impression, just like you do with traditional materials. It is the process directly following where you see the amazing benefits of digital technology, and where you can take your dentist/lab relationship from good to great!

We are both on the cutting edge because we are interested in achieving the best work. The lab knows they are getting a great impression, and the doctor knows he is getting a great crown. Everyone is happy, including the patients who get a superb restoration the first time.

Shane Treadaway began his career as a dental technician with Pittman Dental Laboratory more than 17 years ago. He is vice president of sales and marketing. His team is recognized as one of the most advanced lab teams in the Southeast. Contact him at [email protected].

Dr. James Carroll practices dentistry in Gaffney, S.C. He received his B.S. from Clemson University and his Doctorate in Dental Medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina. He served three years in the U.S. Army Dental Corps. Contact him at [email protected].

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