2012 De Czie P02

Flipping the digital switch with your dental laboratory

Dec. 1, 2020
Fully embracing digital technology is key for transforming patient results and elevating the laboratory industry. This lab is committed to digital ways of working and it is investing time and resources into turning technicians into digital experts.

For 28 years, our laboratory has strived to provide our customers with superior quality, collaborative excellence, and efficient service. Since our founding, we have believed that fully embracing digital technology is key for transforming patient results and elevating our industry. In recent years, the advent of advanced digital workflows has enabled us to both improve outcomes and empower our partners in new and exciting ways. 

A history of embracing digital 

Prior to founding Ziemek Dental Lab, I served in the air force. There, I trained and worked with a diverse team of prosthodontic doctors, both domestically and abroad. This was a formative experience for me, as access to a large and well-resourced team taught me the importance of process innovation. With six new recruits arriving every quarter, developing efficient systems provided real value by letting us spend less time on process and more on products and people.

When I struck out to open my own laboratory, a proliferation of new technology—both in the dental care industry and society as a whole—provided ample opportunities to reduce labor time and physical footprints. However, only within the last decade have we been able to fully harness the power of digital technologies. Advances in cloud-based workflows and intraoral scanning make file management, measurement validation, and laboratory-doctor collaboration faster and more effective.

We are committed to digital ways of working and have invested considerable time and resources into turning technicians into digital experts. By combining our industry knowledge and expertise with workflow fluency, we are able to craft and deliver superior quality products to our clients with fewer interruptions.

Key benefits of digital adoption 

The two primary metrics that inform our laboratory’s development are consistency and quality (spanning marginal fit, contact areas, and esthetics). Excellent scan quality, system tool sets, and real-time doctor communication help us minimize errors to ensure that every digital file we work with is accurate and validated. This provides real value to all stakeholders in dental health care, saving considerable time and financial resources (factoring remake costs, material costs, and tax impact) over time. 

Additionally, the ease-of-use advantages inherent to modern systems ensure that when new dental partners flip the digital “switch,” we can help onboard them and get to productive collaboration faster. Systems such as the iTero intraoral scanner by Align Technology help us communicate with practices in real time, allowing us to review and validate scans while a patient is still in the chair. This direct communication provides our lab with versatility, enhances process control, and increases productivity. Intuitive interfaces and tools, combined with robust training programs offered by top vendors, have made it easy to integrate new best practices and reap the rewards that come with them. 

Unexpected benefits in a strange new era 

At the time of this article’s publication, the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted patient care, impacting nonemergency office visits and supply chain, causing global material shortages. 

An unexpected but crucial benefit of taking our lab fully digital is our ability to maximize infection control as our staff returns to work. Where possible, we reduce exposure to inbound physical molds: working with digital scans and files helps us keep things free of contamination by limiting the number of physical touch points. In combination with integrated practices outlined by health officials, this helps us safeguard employees without sacrificing quality. On the practice side, the inherent speed and operability of digital scanning helps reduce patient chair time and eliminate impression work, as well.

Continued advances and evolution 

The benefits of digital technology integration have accelerated in recent years, and we expect continued innovation to continue. Faster processing speeds, improved usability, and ergonomic advances will help us serve customers with unprecedented agility and confidence. If you are in the early phases of a digital transition, I encourage you to jump in with both feet and experience the difference—and rewards—digital workflows bring.

BOB ZIEMEK is the chief executive officer of Ziemek Dental Labs, an internationally recognized laboratory based in Olympia, Washington. He can be reached at [email protected].

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