2nd day of midwinter proves busy for dental lab professionals

February 24, 2012

There's certainly no shortage of opportunities to take in new techniques, check out new products and meet new people from the industry during the second day of the Chicago midwinter meetings. With the Cal-Lab meeting continuing for a morning session, Jensen Education Day and Spectrum dialogue Techno-Clinical Day as well as Lab Day getting started.

There's certainly no shortage of opportunities to take in new techniques, check out new products and meet new people from the industry during the second day of the Chicago midwinter meetings. With the Cal-Lab meeting continuing for a morning session, Jensen Education Day and Spectrum dialogue Techno-Clinical Day as well as Lab Day getting started.

Dental Lab Products was able to spend time at three of the four events mixing in lectures, hands on product demos and the bulk of the industry with their products on display in one place at Lab Day. A visit to Cal-Lab started the day where zirconia was the topic, and a trio of speakers were sharing the latest developments with that material.

Cal-Lab Full Contour Z panel

Don Cornell started things off talking about how far full contour zirconia has come; from the subpar esthetics of stains, through the better, but not great pre-shaded blocks and now to a fairly esthetic process based on shading liquids. He then talked about 3M ESPE’s new Lava Plus full contour zirconia which features a full line of shading liquids keyed to the VITA Shade Guide as well as effects shades and a fluorescent liquid.

“They’ve done a pretty remarkable job,” he said.

Still he believes the material will only get better with increased translucency and more options for adding custom shades. Even if the esthetics never reach what can be accomplished by other materials and techniques, the price point and possible profit margins make this a material hard for labs to ignore.

“Good enough isn’t going to go away. It’s here. Good enough is going to be a part of our general product offerings that we offer to our dentists,” he said.

Dimitri Brodkin, PhD, R&D Director at Ivoclar Vivadent then provided great technical detail on what goes into creating a zirconia material for dental use. He said the focus is now on finding a formula that retains the strength and fracture toughness while adding more translucency. He predicts innovation in sintering technologies and an ongoing improvement in the esthetic possibilities of zirconia.

Finally Robin Carden, VP of R&D at Glidewell explained some of the proprietary process Glidewell Dental Laboratories uses when fabricating its wildly successful BruxZir material. He also shared some technical details about how the material is made and said the company is constantly working to improve the outcomes in terms of esthetics.

But even as there’s room for improvement, Carden said Glidewell has embraced the material and CAD/CAM production with PFMs dropping from 65% of the lab’s business in 2007 to 29% last year while all-ceramic crowns leapt from 23% to 67% of the work in that same time period.

A cab ride later, over at Jensen Education day hands on demonstrations were underway as technicians including Peter Pizza, MDT, Jungo Endo, RDT, Keyon Jack, CDT, MDT, and a host of others were providing hands-on demonstrations to a very interested crowd.

When it was time to return to the lecture hall it was time for a presentation on CAD/CAM from Cornell and CAD/CAM expert Greg Harris who tag teamed their way through a discussion of the development of the technology in the dental lab space and where it is today, almost unavoidable.

“We are on the cusp of bringing CAD/CAM into every dental laboratory,” Cornell said. “There is an option and a system for almost every need and for almost every laboratory.”

The price to enter into the digital space is no longer an insurmountable obstacle and it offers labs the ability to provide different restoration price points much like a hotel chain has different levels of luxury in its properties or Wolfgang Puck has his flagship fine-dining brand and then airport restaurants and even frozen entrees.

Cornell said that digital production might mean lower prices per unit, but it often can also bring a greater profit margin per unit. However, Harris and Cornell both stressed the importance of using systems that are validated to work together by both manufacturers because getting a design from software to a mill isn’t always plug and play.

After a lunch break it was across the river to Lab Day where Nobel Biocare had sponsored a panel discussion on the state of the industry featuring an array of high profile lab owners and industry representatives and moderated by Dr. Mark Murphy. The interactive discussion featured live audience polls with instant results and the ability for attendees to ask questions via text message.

The beginning of the three-hour session focused on achieving efficiency from each technician in a lab. Warren Rogers from Knight Dental Group said his technicians are training in a constant improvement process where they try to identify bottlenecks via regular feedback. Meanwhile Amos Harting of Harting Dental Arts said his small lab increases its efficiency via automation and technology.

“Our efficiencies are with the scanners,” he said. “We’ve had a scanner for 15 years and it’s been very good for us.”

Dental Services Group VP Rich Harrell said its always important for labs to find cost savings in production and overhead expenses because increasing prices is not very realistic for most labs right now.

“Every aspect of what you do in cost, has an impact on what your revenues are,” he said.

As usual the Lab Day exhibition hall was busy as companies showed off new innovations and promoted their top sellers. Sirona had the new inLab 4.0 software for technicians to test drive and Candulor debuts several new products and kits designed to help dentists capture the information labs need to fabricate quality dentures. After the exhibit hall closed for the day, Candulor announced the winners of the first KunstZahnWerk Art of Dentures competition in North America. After receiving 49 applications and 10 completed entries, the company presented every technician who took part with some recognition before awarding the top prize to Arian Deutsch of Deutsch Dental Arts in Arizona.

Finally it was back across the river for the reception following Jensen Education Day where a sizable and social crowd enjoyed food, drinks and the chance to kick back and prepare for the ongoing education and product releases due on Saturday.