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    The top 10 developments in dental technology in 2017

    2017 has been a year of advancements ­— not in tools themselves, but in how they impact the industry.



    4. Labs are just one part of an entire manufacturing network  

    “The first big trend that I think is evident is that labs are becoming a part of the process of building a restoration — they’re not the whole thing,” says Jeffrey Noles, CEO of LabStar, a company that provides cloud-based software for dental labs. 

    “It’s rare to go to a lab and have them do everything for you. Instead, the lab is either going to be additive later on for somebody else, or they may be sending parts of the restoration out to other vendors. So you’re part of a network now.” 

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    He says the implication of that is that labs need to be smart about the products and services they sell and the technology they buy. To do that, they need to be open and ask the right questions. Questions like, “As part of a network manufacturing landscape where you are a part of the process and not all of the process, how do you buy your technology? How do you offer services that aren’t going to tie you in? How do you train your lab techs?” 

    Asking these questions will help position labs to be more successful, but they need to be addressed sooner rather than later. 

    “Labs need to find their part in the network that builds restorations right now, especially small labs that are going to survive,” he says. “Technology is a tricky thing: you can get stuck. It’s like buying a car versus leasing a car. For a business, it only makes sense to lease. The decisions you’re making now: are they going to limit your success in being part of the manufacturing network of the future?” 

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    That said, labs should still focus on having a team of solid technicians. “You’ve got to stay on the cutting edge and treat people well, and you’ve still got to have all the master techs and certified dental techs to work with these cases,” says Shaun Keating, CDT, lab owner of Keating Dental Arts in Irvine, CA. “The computers can’t do it all. You’ve got to have knowledge. You’ve got to know a lot when it comes to teeth. You can’t just put it in a computer and expect it to pop it out and send it out. There’s a lot to it.” 



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