Interview: Making use of CAD/CAM to heighten the efficiency of the dental laboratory
Some are already convinced, while others are still hesitant. Opinions on the issue of using digital processes in the dental laboratory diverge quite considerably. Lively discussions on the pros and cons are the order of the day.
Christian Seger a dental technician who runs his own laboratory in Liechtenstein is clearly convinced of the benefits of CAD/CAM. Nevertheless, he advises his colleagues not to rush into anything blindly. He believes in carefully weighing up the situation before settling on a suitable strategy for the future. He recommends that laboratories should critically analyze their processes and cleverly combine CAD/CAM with conventional work methods. Read more.
Mr Seger, how “digital” is your laboratory?
Christian Seger: I’m very interested in this type of technology and I try to stay abreast of the latest industry developments by consulting various sources on a daily basis. That said, I take a “wait and see approach” and gather as much information as possible, before I commit to making an investment. It’s of tremendous importance for small laboratories in particular to invest in equipment and technology that will be profitable.
In your opinion, what is the greatest benefit of digital processes?
Christian Seger: Digital processes allow us to work more rapidly and efficiently. Today, we have the possibility of choosing between outsourcing the fabrication of our restorations to milling centres or doing the job ourselves. This is not only to our benefit, but also to that of our patients. Moreover, due to our close collaboration with milling centres we are given guarantees on all the work done externally. Digital processes have an additional advantage in that they produce predictable and consistent results. Finally, these digital opportunities enable my lab to get a lot of work done, even though we are only a very small team.
In your opinion, what are the greatest obstacles?
Christian Seger: I have noticed that many dental technicians are inadequately prepared for taking advantage of digital technology because the training they receive is still very much focused on dental lab technology as a craft. Newcomers to digital technology have to spend a lot of time, sometimes weeks, learning to use new systems and their software. I’m speaking from experience: I relied a lot on “learning by doing” and watching YouTube videos. The type of support you can expect from a manufacturer is of major importance. The digital industry needs to take action in this respect. It is not enough to simply introduce digital equipment and processes to the market and let the customers figure things out for themselves. Education and training measures should also be offered to help operators learn how to use the new systems. In my opinion, the software training opportunities offered are still highly inadequate. In many cases, only a very short introductory course is offered.
Will everything be completely digital one day?
Christian Seger: No, I believe that the traditional craft of the dental technician will remain indispensable. Not every case can be planned and solved from beginning to end with digital means. I think that conventional working techniques will have to be cleverly combined with digital processes in the future: both approaches together rather than only the one or the other. In any case, this is the trend that we are seeing today. When we plan complex cases, we already rely on software that integrates photos and X-rays.
What advice would you give your colleagues who are thinking about going digital?Christian Seger: In my experience, it’s best to first learn to use the software and to outsource the production part. In future, the dental technicians who know how to properly assess what they have to do themselves and what they should be outsourcing will be successful. Everyone has to weigh up the pros and cons for themselves. Many dental laboratories have bought CAD/CAM systems, which are not being used to capacity. These systems are not only expensive to purchase, but also to use. Maintenance, tools, grinding fluid and software updates all cost money.
I’m convinced that dental laboratories will be able to rely on manufacturers such as Ivoclar Vivadent in the future. The PrograMill units presented at IDS will offer operators new possibilities related to production times and precision due to validated milling strategies.
Would you like to find out more about digital manufacturing methods? Ivoclar Digital is an experienced digital partner who supports dentists and dental technicians throughout the digital process chain. Particular emphasis is placed on clear and straightforward processes.
Are you interested in other digital topics? If so, you might like to read the latest issue of Reflect!