CAD/CAM Systems Deliver Benefits Beyond Profit

By Brent Harris, DMD

The most successful businesspeople are often visionaries who embrace non-conformist ideas and use them to produce exceptional results. The visionary challenge, specific to technology, is deciding when to transition from the old to the new and also evaluating the financial risk vs. reward.

In the last decade, dentistry has experienced large advances in technology, and one of them is CAD/CAM dentistry. With the E4D Dentist, the visionaries at D4D Technologies have introduced an investment that offers significant tangible and intangible rewards to dental practices.

Financial risk vs. reward

When weighing the decision to upgrade to a CAD/CAM system, the most important question on most dentists’ minds is, “What will be the return on my investment?”

A simple ROI equation uses this analysis: the average dentist places 25-30 indirect restorations each month at a lab cost of about $175 per unit. If an office financed the E4D over five years, hypothetically, they only need to fabricate about 20–25 restorations per month for the system to pay for itself. If more restorations are milled in-house, the E4D goes from covering costs to profitability!

E4D provides faster, excellent quality restorations and lower lab costs

We have three dentists who work between two and five days per week plus a dental team of nine. We have been using our E4D for nearly three years. Since 2010, we have seen a decrease in our overall lab bill of over 20%.

Generating same-day restorations that meet or exceed the quality of those from the lab has been one of the most rewarding changes. It has doubled the number of available appointments, improved my patients’ treatment experiences, and increased word-of-mouth referrals. The choice of restorative materials such as IPS Empress and E-MAX ceramics, in a multitude of shades and translucencies for use with the E4D, allow for beautiful, strong, long-term restorations that meet or exceed the properties of metal-ceramic restorations from the lab. It is these advances in materials that allow a doctor to “upgrade” a quadrant of class 2 composite restorations to indirect CAD/CAM restorations in the scope of a single appointment. By upgrading to a partial coverage indirect restoration, the patient is not only being better served, but the office can see a greater profit as well.

The E4D system is also modular. It is easily added to, with sharing capability between offices and to offsite locations. By sharing components, these offices can maximize restoration numbers but minimize their investment costs in the system. It is this modular capability of the E4D system that allows it to function profitably for a single practitioner and truly showcase its capabilities in a multi-doctor, multi-office setting.

Beyond Profit to Intangible Benefits

Although financial gains from the E4D use tend to attract the most attention, there are a myriad of intangible returns that should not be overlooked.

Renewed interest and motivation of your team

Assistants will be eager to show off their new scanning and designing skills in front of patients. The front desk will be excited to discuss how the system works with patients and will be eager to get emergencies scheduled and transitioned into same-day restorations. Incorporating the E4D system truly revolutionizes the office–it will functionally change the way you practice and provide an opportunity to reestablish a cohesive team approach around the new technology.

As a clinician, the most profound intangible result of instituting a CAD/CAM system has been an increased awareness of all aspects of the restorative process. I have improved my preparations and become more meticulous with soft tissue management. The post-milling process of contour refinement and staining/glazing restorations has honed my attention to color, surface texture, and light reflection of both natural teeth and restorations. When necessary, the E4D allows me to customize them chairside without an additional appointment. Because of the variety of designs that can be easily fabricated, minimal preparation and partial coverage restorations are easy and efficient to fabricate indirectly without worrying about provisionals or lab fabrication times. The ability to clone existing tooth contours with the E4D system is especially well suited to same-day replacement and retrofitting of crowns that interact with removable partial dentures. Not only does this allow a patient to replace their full coverage restoration without having to remake their partial denture, but it prevents them from forfeiting their removable appliances for days at a time. In general, implementing CAD/CAM dentistry has helped me achieve a new skill set and a fresh perspective. It has redefined my ambitions and helped me identify the potential for new treatment options, and it has increased my confidence and renewed my energy to tackle challenging projects.

The Future of CAD/CAM

Currently, less than 10% of dentists nationwide have invested in some form of CAD/CAM system, according to estimates. However, it seems inevitable that within the next decade, the use of this technology will swell. Corporate-run dental offices are increasing their footprint on the dental landscape with more “franchise” offices tied to one another; therefore, it also seems likely that CAD/CAM systems linked between offices will be used as a logical method of keeping lab costs for these enterprises at a minimum. The E4D Dentist system has already proven itself as a sleek and sophisticated investment that adds both tangible and intangible value to practices of all sizes. It will surely continue to do so well into the future.

About the Author: Brent Harris, DMD is currently in private practice in Port Saint Lucie, FL. He is a graduate of Nova Southeastern College of Dental Medicine and completed a General Practice Residency at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Dr. Harris currently facilitates E4D study clubs throughout Florida. He can be contacted at