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Is CAD/CAM a good fit for your dental practice?

Jan. 1, 2020
Matthew Newman says technology is too prevalent to sit on the sidelines without exploring your options. Here are some factors to consider when deciding to incorporate CAD/CAM into your dental practice.

Technology is an alluring demon these days; just ask yourself what seven-year-old can’t operate a cell phone (my hobby when I was seven was running a Matchbox car through a pile of gravel). Today, technology is too prevalent to sit on the sidelines without exploring your options. 

Not a tech wizard? Don’t worry. Here’s a list of factors to consider when deciding to incorporate CAD/CAM into your dental practice. For the extreme tech rookies, CAD/CAM is the full process of digital scanning, milling, firing, and finishing the entire restoration in the office—no lab or third party involved. 

First, take stock of your office staff. Technologically speaking, is your team what you’d call up to speed? At the very least, you must be using current computers and Wi-Fi. If not, connectivity issues should be evaluated prior to making the jump. In addition, your staff should know how to fix minor issues, or you’ll have to pay service bills for even the smallest things. These days, it’s worth hiring an employee with more computer knowledge whom you can train in dental, instead of someone who knows dental but needs to call a coworker over when the computer cord falls out of the outlet.

Second, decide what kind of leader you are. This is important. You will be a lot more efficient if you are the empowering type who allows the team to learn and grow. Employees want to develop their skills, and rightfully so. News flash: the dentist should not be the only one trained to use the tech toys; doctors don’t need to be physically present for every step of the CAD/CAM process. Stick to the higher billable procedures and let your team deal with the rest. Besides, studies show that empowered employees are happy employees.1 That means you won’t have to train new people every six months.

Next, consider a cost-benefit analysis. Yes, there is a decent monthly payment coming your way, but those lab bills will go down proportionately. You’ll need some new supplies (such as blocks, etc.), but other things will be reduced as well (i.e., impression materials). Impressions will be more accurate with the new technology, so fewer errors will factor in. And did I mention that these procedures will happen a lot faster? That means more patients in your chairs each day, and, of course, more billing.

Don’t forget about the warranties. You wouldn’t put yourself in a luxury vehicle without one, so why take a chance with your livelihood? Service plans are moderately priced, but they are extremely worth it. Some of those parts can be expensive, but the warranty significantly cuts down those costs. Some warranties also cover labor and service calls. If you bought from a company with a call center, you can use their help without hesitation. 

Take advantage of the marketing benefits. From a marketing perspective, technology doesn’t just work for you in the office. If you’re skilled in marketing (or have a social media guru at the reception desk), this machine can work for you outside the office as well. No one buys nice things to hide them in the closet. This equipment should be placed on a pedestal, and you should be shouting from the rooftops that you can now do a crown in 90 minutes or less. Not only will your current customers be intrigued and proud to see this on Facebook, but you’ll lure customers away from dentists who are too scared to get on the digital dentistry train.

Overall, CAD/CAM technology creates exponential growth for those who jump in with both feet. But it has to be all or nothing. This technology comes with training and continuing education resources that can make any doctor an expert. The thing to understand is that it is a lifestyle change (all the more reason to get your team involved). You can’t plan on using technology like a Montblanc pen only for special occasions; your team needs to be immersed in the technology—daily, right away, without hesitation over the learning curve. Excited yet?  


1. Lee A, Willis S, Tian AW. When empowering employees works, and when it doesn’t. Harvard Business Review website. https://hbr.org/2018/03/when-empowering-employees-works-and-when-it-doesnt. Published March 2, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2019.

Matthew Newman is the operations manager for the Baltimore/District of Columbia/Northern Virginia region of Patterson Dental. With 20 years’ experience in operational management, he has spent the bulk of his time in both B2B/distribution and hospitality. Contact him via messenger on LinkedIn

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