Chairside CAD/CAM dentistry as a profit-builder

New technology increases precision and profitability.

by Joel Benk, DDS, FICOI

New technology increases precision and profitability.

Like all things on earth, nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable. Things get better and they get worse as time goes on. This constant flux of life pertains to business as well. We have all felt the repercussions of a fluctuating economy this past year. As a new year is ready to unfold, I would like to share with you how I found a way to work less and make more money, even in an economic downturn.

A little over two years ago, I discovered a technology that I considered to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in restorative dentistry since the implementation of posterior bonding — chairside CAD/CAM. Since my discovery, this CAD/CAM system has brought more excitement and revenue to my practice than I could have hoped for. It has enabled me to offer high- quality restorations to my patients in one visit, and to be confident about the work that I do.

In my opinion, a key component in having a successful practice is finding products and systems that will benefit the patient as well as your business. In my article, "One Year and 338 Restorations Later," published in the September 2002 issue of Dental Economics, I discussed the impact CAD/CAM technology had on my practice after the first year. It was nothing less than fantastic!

I replaced the laboratory I used, cut my costs, and began to fabricate single crowns, inlays, and onlays in my office, all in the same visit. I completely eliminated the insertion appointment and increased my production, while seeing fewer patients. CAD/CAM technology has been a welcome addition to my practice and has offered me a new perspective on increasing productivity and patient satisfaction. Now, in my second year with the system, some welcome changes have again benefited my practice.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any better ... along comes more improvements. As I approached my two-year anniversary of having the CEREC 3 system in my practice, I was introduced to extraordinary new technology in CEREC 3D, a new multi-dimensional user platform. The addition of the new 3D software has enhanced my CAD/CAM experience in a multitude of ways. The new software is so intuitive that the ease of use is amazing. I can fabricate restorations faster, more precisely, and with greater ease than ever before. I have watched my financial numbers climb in 2003, again exceeding my expectations.

Ahead of the curve

With CEREC 3D, the learning curve has been drastically altered. I have experienced first-hand the difference this new software makes to dental professionals learning about CAD/CAM technology for the first time. The 3D software virtually places you in the patient's mouth, allowing for 360-degree angles of the preparation area. It also comes with intuitive features that make the preparation fun and easy. One such feature is the ability to design a functional occlusion on the computer screen, as well as do contact adjustment. This feature allows me to make all adjustments before the restoration is even milled. Still another great enhancement is the automatic margin-finder. Before the margin-finder feature was added, this process took a bit more time to perfect. Now the 3D software makes margin adjustments quick and easy.

By practically eliminating the steep learning curve, the CEREC 3D enables the dental assistant to finish the design stage of a restoration, while the doctor is seeing the next patient. This allows for greater efficiency and more profitable management of the practice.

Comparing costs

When comparing the costs of the restorations after the first year, I realized that I had completed 319 restorations for a total production revenue of $230,872 or 29.39 percent of my total personal production. My second year was even more rewarding. I completed a total of 517 restorations, which equated to $415,665 in revenue or 43.91 percent of my total personal production. I also calculated the money I saved in lab fees the second year. If I had sent those 517 restorations to my lab, the fee would be $190.00 per unit. That adds up to $98,230 in lab fees. Creating the restorations in-house costs me $15 per unit, totalling $7,775. Comparing the two costs shows a savings of $90,455 ($98,230 - $7,775). My savings as a result of using the CEREC system the first year was $43,010. The savings over a two-year time period using the CEREC CAD/CAM system was — are you ready for this? — $133,465! How 'bout them apples?

Not only does this technology benefit the dentist, it also benefits the patient. We can help patients preserve healthy tooth structure using ceramic restorations, and they can walk away with the promise of these restorations lasting two-to-three times the life span of an amalgam and at least four-to-five times the life span of a posterior-composite filling ... all this without compromising esthetics or strength!

The patient saves money, too!

Financially, the patient saves money in the long run. Dentists often see failed crowns, root canals, bad extractions, etc. Now you can offer your patient an alternative in preventative care that will last much longer than a composite or amalgam. That means the CEREC restorations actually cost the patient less over the life of the restoration. If these patients then follow proper oral hygiene maintenance, they will be making fewer visits to have alternative restorations redone. Providing patients with the best noninvasive care, helping them maintain healthy tooth structure, and offering them better aesthetic alternatives add up to a satisfying experience for them and for us.

My own personal experience with CAD/CAM technology shows that everyone wins. Now, with the addition of CEREC 3D, I can further improve practice profitability, decrease my costs, and make patients happier. I can do all this with what I believe to be the best restorative option of the new century.

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