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    How is dental technology REALLY being used?

    We surveyed dentists and dental technicians about how they're using technology in their work—here's what they told us.

    CAD/CAM and digital dentistry are major forces driving the industry, but to what extent? To find out, Digital Esthetics conducted a survey to determine how technology is driving dentistry. The survey asked respondents about how they utilize technology, what kinds of equipment they use and how they interact with their lab or doctor.

    The survey included 330 respondents—114 from labs and 216 from dental offices. Some of the major demographics include:

    Labs

    • 75 percent of respondents are lab owners
    • 80 percent have been in the field for more than 20 years
    • 44 percent work in labs with one to three employees, 17 percent work in labs with four to six employees
    • 43 percent of the labs perform crown and bridge work while 35 percent are full-service labs

    Dental offices

    • 76 percent of respondents are dentists and the practice owner
    • 77 percent have been in the dental field for more than 20 years
    • 36 percent are in practices with one to three employees, 35 percent are in practices with four to six employees
    • 78 percent are general dentists
    • 64 percent send their cases to a local lab, while 21 percent send to a national lab

    Using intraoral scans

    graph showing rate of same-day crowns

    About 16 percent of labs report using intraoral scans from their doctors, yet 30 percent of doctors report owning intraoral scanners. The data also show that many doctors are milling their restorations in-house.

    Must read: The top 10 techniques of 2016

    Mark Ferguson, General Manager, Vulcan Custom Dental, looks to the types of equipment that doctors are using.

    “A good amount of them are using CEREC,” Ferguson notes. “That, right there, eliminates the lab work.”

    But others may simply not use the scanners, even after they’ve been purchased.

    “You’re always going to have a few people who want to jump and get something, and for whatever reason, after they get it, they don’t like it,” says Dr. John Flucke, DDS, Technology Editor for Dental Products Report. “I’ve always been of the opinion that if I can’t make something work, I always think to myself, ‘There are people out there who are doing this and they’re making it work.’ So I tend to push myself until I finally get the grasp of it. But some people get frustrated, and they also don’t want to give an appearance of being baffled in front of their patients, and so it just becomes a thing that it’s easier not to deal with it. Put it in a corner and put a potted plant on it.”

    “They’re just not using it,” adds Dr. David Rice, DDS, a general dentist in East Amherst, New York. “They purchased the technology, and whether it’s fear of the technology, inadequate training or they just haven’t had success with it; they purchased it and they’re just not using it at all.”

    Next page: What can be done chairside?

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