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The Lab: Sikes Dental Studios is a full-service lab in Charlotte, N.C., specializing in highly esthetic results for a variety of clients who request a variety of solutions. The lab is small with seven full-time technicians, an office manager and a delivery person on staff.
Sikes Dental Studios serves as a beta lab for Sirona, enabling them to have access to cutting-edge technology, like the newest in inLab system innovations and workflow solutions like Sirona Connect.
The Solution: Sirona Connect enables inLab labs to receive digital files from their dentists, making communication and case collaboration with clinicians easier than ever. The inLab system provides an in-house solution for labs to create a variety of restorative options that they can offer to clinicians at a cost-effective price and with a quick turnaround time. With Sirona Connect and the inLab system, dentists and labs can quickly work together and realize the potential of a fully digital workflow.
The Results: Lindy Sikes, CDT and owner of Sikes Dental Studios, has been a dental technician for nearly 40 years. As the lab market has gone increasingly digital, he found himself at a crossroads. “Being a third-generation CDT, I grew up watching my grandfather and father run the dental laboratory, and I gradually developed a real interest in it,” Sikes explains. “My connection to Sirona began about 10 years ago. Using an old inLab LED cam, I began seeing the advantages of digital technology. At that particular time, we were sending our zirconia patterns to be processed by an outside source. As we kept working, we noticed our outsourced work was vastly increasing, to about $4,000 a month. Realizing that purchasing my own system would only cost me $2,000, I bought one and produced everything in-house.”
Step-by-Step with Sirona Connect:
Becoming an inLab lab with full access to Sirona Connect has helped him take that workflow to the next level. Using Sirona Connect’s capability to manage cases and communicate with his clinician clients, Sikes is able to complete work with a faster turnaround time and with less communication breakdowns that can so often make restorative cases tricky. “Probably in 97 percent of my business, I use Sirona Connect in one step or another for digital impression-taking,” Sikes says. “Using Sirona Connect has changed my entire business model. Crowns that once took two weeks to turn around now can be completed in just three-to-five days, along with an overall reduction in costs.
“Sikes Dental Studios is a small laboratory, but we manage the volume of a 15-lab territory because of our digital capabilities,” he continues. “Using digital technology makes us much quicker. We can accept more cases with fewer technicians, complete cases faster and actually reduce our overall costs.”
Connecting to dentists
Sikes Dental Studios generally uses Sirona Connect to produce restorations taken from Sirona intraoral scanners and then work with the doctor’s instructions to design the solution. They then send it to Sirona’s central production service, infiniDent, to produce the final restoration. “About 25 percent of our work comes in digitally through Sirona Connect,” Sikes notes. “Of that 25 percent, at least 75 percent of those cases require a model to work on. We take the digital file that the doctor sends us and then we send it to infiniDent to print the model. infiniDent can produce full-contour crowns or bridge frameworks with a wide range of materials including ceramic, wax or metal.
“We [also] use Sirona Connect to design gold crowns and porcelain-fused-to-metal copings. Before digital technology, we had to hand-wax copings at a cost of between $5-$20 each. Now that cost is $3.95 per coping. It requires less of the technician’s time handling the product and the accuracy is far greater than what can be done by hand. It saves on cost and we produce a more consistent product.”
The benefits of digital
Of course, the cost savings provided to Sikes Dental Studio by Sirona Connect isn’t just because of a reduction in coping prices. Sirona Connect also improves turnaround time, which has a dramatic effect on Sike’s bottom line. “The benefit to producing a crown faster is that it saves the doctor anywhere between $60 and $80 per minute,” Sikes explains. “Five years ago, it would usually take a week to get a crown processed. In two weeks, the patient had a temporary made out of plastic with the permanent crown delivered in three weeks. The plastic began to break down and the spaces naturally began to close. The microns of closure require grinding the permanent crown down to fit properly. That equates to an additional 10-30 minutes, and in some cases up to an hour, to place the crown at the doctor’s office.
“It’s not because the lab is bad, but because of the production time involved in producing a quality product,” Sikes goes on. “If the case can be finished quicker, there’s less time for the temporary to break or start wearing down. Using digital impression-taking, we can actually deliver a crown in a day and chairside time is minimal.” That time savings for the lab can then be passed to the doctor and then to the patient, ensuring a rapid workflow that is both better for the budget and better for the final customer: the patient.
Sikes firmly believes any lab ought to take the leap into a fully digital workflow and should begin to invest in technologies that will help them receive intraoral files easily from clinicians, along with providing a way to rapidly produce restorations (either in-house or with a partner like Sirona). “Any lab that accepts digital cases is positioned well for the future,” he says. “For those lab technicians who don’t have digital capabilities right now, it’s hard for them to understand that integrating a digital platform would expand their capabilities and open a whole new communication platform between dentists’ offices and clients. We’ve milled more than 2,000 inLab units and will continue to mill many more using Sirona Connect and the inLab System.”