10 Questions: Matt Roberts, CDT

March 21, 2012

01. You established CMR Dental Lab in 1978. How and why did you add educator to your role as a laboratory owner/technician? I was doing support for Dr. Bill Dickerson for his office before he started LVI and we had lots of doctors coming through the course learning the techniques that he was teaching and yet they had no technicians to send to when they got home. Our laboratory was overbooked so we started training technicians for the dentists who were participating in the course. 

01. You established CMR Dental Lab in 1978. How and why did you add educator to your role as a laboratory owner/technician?

I was doing support for Dr. Bill Dickerson for his office before he started LVI and we had lots of doctors coming through the course learning the techniques that he was teaching and yet they had no technicians to send to when they got home. Our laboratory was overbooked so we started training technicians for the dentists who were participating in the course. 

02. What challenges do today’s technicians face in terms of education? 

Some of the main challenges that we face today are time away from the bench to take education and also seeking out quality education. The number of programs out there has dwindled a little over the last 3 or 4 years and it’s a little bit tougher to get away from work to go in these economic times.

03. How does your Team Aesthetic Education program for dentists and technicians overcome these obstacles?

What we’ve done to combat that is offer our courses over the Internet. We have pay per view courses that you can watch from any place on the planet that you have a computer and Internet connection. That makes it a little easier to squeeze in as a lunch-and-learn with your team or over a weekend at home.

04. What differentiates this education from other offerings?

Our educational model is based on clinical dentistry and what sets us apart is the freedom to watch it at any time that you want and then re-watch it again for 10 days. Also, if you want to make it into a hands-on course, there are models available from Ivoclar Vivadent. Plus there are both clinical and laboratory aspects to it, so it works really well for a teaching venue for a study group with dentists and technicians together.

05. What has been the biggest change in terms of materials in recent years? 

Ceramic science over the last few years has changed dramatically. In recent years we saw a lot more zirconia based restorations, but there were high failure rates with layering. What’s changed in the last year or two is the use of e.max lithium disilicate, which has the necessary strength as well as translucency.

06. How have these material developments changed the way laboratories handle cases?

Lithium disilicate is taking over most of their business because the esthetics are really nice, the wear numbers are nice and it doesn’t break. Also, full-contour zirconia crowns is another newer material gaining popularity as an economical, non-esthetic alternative to gold occlusion.

07. What advice do you offer to laboratories in terms of communicating with their dentist customers?

Today’s standard is a combination of good digital photographs and video clips and those can be integrated with either Power Point or Key Note presentations along with notes that drive the direction of the case and explain everything. Rather than a paper lab script, it’s an electronic lab script with all the multimedia to really elevate what’s going on with the patient. iChat and Skype video conferencing also are very valuable tools for communication.

08. What are your thoughts on digital impressions and how they fit in with the laboratory industry?

They are definitely here to stay. Studies comparing them to physical impressions show favorable results and they improve the workflow. We use iTero and I can be designing the crown before I even have the model here. It really compresses the turnaround time.

09. Today, many labs are using outsource mills and many others are considering this. How can a lab determine if this is best for them?

With the speed that technology’s coming at us, you can’t afford to buy every new system that comes at you. I think it’s a good time to depend on networking and peer groups and then to look at the option of either buying a machine and having enough business to pay it off before it becomes obsolete, or finding what I believe is an attractive option of working with an outsource center.

10. Will all this technology make the need for qualified lab technicians become scarce?

Digital technology isn’t replacing all aspects of what we’re doing at all. What the dental technician has to offer is his knowledge of dentistry and of how things should be done…How the shapes, the form and the function all come together. With newer technologies we have a different set of tools to apply the same knowledge.