Establishing her dental office in what she describes as “a pretty remote location,” Robin Henderson, D.D.S., owns a general practice in Clarkston, Washington — a community that sits on the Washington-Idaho border, roughly two hours south of Spokane and five hours north of Boise. It’s a community that Dr. Henderson describes as not only an ideal place to build a dental practice, but also a city with a patient base that embraces the use of digital technology for their oral health care needs.
One of the biggest “secret weapons” that Dr. Henderson has in her arsenal is computer-aided design (CAD)/computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology. In this article, we will detail some of the ways Dr. Henderson has seen CAD/CAM transform her practice, as well as tackle two of the biggest hesitancies often heard from dentists about incorporating this technology into their daily workflow.
CAD/CAM dentistry: A brief overview
Since first being introduced to the dental industry in 1985, the use of CAD/CAM technology has allowed dental professionals to become more adept and efficient in many clinical aspects. By incorporating this technology, applications such as veneers, implant-supported restorations, inlays, onlays, crowns, prosthodontic appliances and bridges can be created in-house and in a single visit in many cases, saving time for the patient and the practice.
For dentists like Dr. Henderson, CAD/CAM is a tremendously valuable piece of today’s digital workflow that can also include digital impressions, 3D printing, cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) and other technological advances. Coming together as part of a workflow design within the practice, CAD/CAM offers a wide range of advantages for both patients and clinicians alike.
Among the choices for CAD/CAM is Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramic (CEREC®) from Dentsply Sirona. This piece of technology was first introduced to the dental industry in 1985 and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of dentists and dental patients throughout the world.
Benefits of CAD/CAM dentistry: Endodontics
Dr. Henderson has found that using CAD/CAM to promote and achieve same-day dentistry has been a big plus for her practice’s success and her patients’ happiness, especially for patients having issues with pulp vitality.
“Pain is simply not a way to win relationships,” Dr. Henderson says. “In my previous world before I had CAD/CAM, it was not uncommon for a prepped tooth to require an endodontic procedure, necessitating another visit and additional time for the patient and our team prior to the seating of the crown, or worse, right after the new crown was seated. Now we just go ahead and move forward with our CEREC restoration. We get the tooth immediately sealed at that single visit and the reduction of endodontic therapy that is needed is absolutely incredible.”
Benefits of CAD/CAM dentistry: Provisionals
With Dr. Henderson’s location and distance away from the lab she was using, she was often waiting more than three weeks for a crown to arrive. That time span would sometimes mean a patient would call in and report a missing temporary, resulting in another visit to the practice and additional chair time.
However, once she integrated CAD/CAM into her daily workflow and single-visit dentistry became the norm for her patients, those issues immediately went away.
“It’s so incredible to not have that stress added to your day,” Dr. Henderson says. “Typically with a second appointment, you’re resetting a room for the same patient for a non-productive procedure. It’s also just better care. Patients love it.”
Benefits of CAD/CAM dentistry: Biocopy
Dr. Henderson can’t talk about CAD/CAM and its pluses without mentioning biocopy, which is the ability to use CAD/CAM to copy the area that needs restoration and produce a look and fit that matches the patient’s original tooth; essentially, creating a clone.
“I love the surface anatomy, and I love the occlusion I get with CAD/CAM,” Dr. Henderson says. “When I check the occlusion prior to anesthetic, I am confident in what I will find during that occlusion check because I’m going to copy everything that I like from the original tooth structure and ensure there is a proper fit. This saves me some work and gives me predictable results.”
Benefits of CAD/CAM dentistry: Predictable scheduling
Often overlooked when discussing CAD/CAM dentistry is the impact that it can have on keeping the practice’s schedule moving forward on time.
“With CAD/CAM, you have a greater sense of how long the restoration is going to take,” Dr. Henderson explains. “You’ll know precisely how much time the restoration is going to be in the mill and exactly how much time it will be in the oven, which can free up your schedule to perform hygiene exams or short consultations. Additionally, this helps your team keep you on track because they’ll know how much time is remaining until you’re ready for the next steps. I see that as an advantage in my practice.”
Navigating the changing relationship with the lab
Dr. Henderson understands that the dentist’s relationship with the lab is an important one — and one that many of her colleagues do not want to break by purchasing CAD/CAM technology. However, despite her solid relationship with her lab partner, she quickly learned the benefits of embracing single-visit dentistry.
“I had a great relationship with my lab technician. One of the hardest things I had to do when purchasing CEREC was talk to him and let him know,” Dr. Henderson says. “But my advice would be to make the jump and never look back. I wanted to be able to achieve the same high-quality results as my lab — and my lab technician was excellent — but I really feel like I have that and more with CEREC.”
Dr. Henderson adds that a change in a relationship with the lab doesn’t necessarily mean that the dentist and laboratory have to completely part ways on this section of the dentist’s technology journey.
“I understand not every dentist will have that comfort level, and I know several of my colleagues who still have CEREC and work with their labs in some instances,” she says. “There are so many directions you can take with your dentistry, as well as with CEREC, but whichever path you choose, I know this: The more you use CEREC, the more I believe you’re going to love it.”
Return on investment (ROI)
Certainly, bringing CAD/CAM into the practice is an investment on the part of every dentist, including Dr. Henderson. However, she is adamant that that investment has been well worth the cost, particularly when it comes to reducing appointments from multiple visits to a single visit, as well as being able to keep restorations in-house rather than outsourcing to a lab.
“Doctors are concerned when it’s a large equipment purchase. I get that. However, when you look at everything involved and what CAD/CAM can mean to your patients and your efficiency, there is no question in my mind it’s worth every penny,” Dr. Henderson says. “If you’re concerned about the return on investment, connect with an equipment specialist and talk more about the ROI if you need to, but I can say that this has not been an issue for me.”
Dr. Henderson added that, when considering her volume of patients, as well as the costs of her CAD/CAM equipment and other needed supplies and materials, she’s now spending less than she did each month (prior to CEREC) using her in-house digital technology.
“My overhead is also reduced, as I am not having patients come back for a second visit to place the indirect restoration,” she explains. It’s this level of productivity and ROI, she says, that has made all the difference.
In today’s world, where efficiency is important for both the practice and patients, Dr. Henderson believes that CAD/CAM has been a game changer for her business. By giving her patients the advantage of same-day dentistry, Dr. Henderson feels she has differentiated herself from others in her area while making life easier for her, her team and her technology-savvy patients.
“I would never, ever go back to life before CEREC,” Dr. Henderson says. “I absolutely love the digital workflow, and CEREC has thoroughly unlocked that.”
Interested in learning more about the benefits and applications of CAD/CAM dentistry? Watch Dr. Henderson’s webinar, “Your Secret Weapon for Restoration Success: CEREC® CAD/CAM Technology.”