When I started working with digital dentistry and CAD/CAM technology in my office, I was hesitantly optimistic. There were a lot of promises – crowns in an hour, easy scanning, easy design, patients will love it. There were also many of the old guard that poo-pooed the whole idea – it’s just not there yet, I know the way I’ve been doing it for my entire career works, I can get a superior product from a lab, my patients don’t care if they have to come back. Well, I took the plunge 8 years ago and haven’t looked back. In fact, I would like to think I’ve been looking forward since that day.
A little history, our youngest daughter had just turned one. My day was tooth related, our evenings were focused on our three daughters. I remember a lot of reading and re-reading the same children’s books. One of their favorites was “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” by Laura Numeroff. In the book, the main character had a pet pig who always wanted more.
My version of that story began like the pig in the story we would read to our kids, once I opened the door to digital dentistry and same day crown, I kept looking for the next thing I could use the technology for (and it hasn’t stopped yet). I had started using a E4D cad/cam scanner in the office. It was the biggest player in the digital market. I was hooked. The technology was very cool and I couldn’t get enough of learning about it. I took online and hands on courses. I wanted to see how I could use the machine to give a better service to my patients. As I was working with the E4D, I found things that were good and things that I wanted it to do, but couldn’t because of software limitations. I decided to look for more information and found what I was looking for with its closest competitor – E4D (now Planscan). I met with the local rep and saw the machine in their showroom. Everything I wanted the E4D to do, but couldn’t, this machine could.
Side note – what led me to this other machine, was this. If I was working on 2 or more crowns, I couldn’t work out the design of all the crowns before committing to them all. I had to design the first crown, commit to the design, then start designing the second. I couldn’t go back and modify the previous crowns if there was something I saw as I was working on the next ones. This software issue allows for a shorter amount of time to start the milling process while you were designing the next crown. It was adequate for daily use, but like the pig with the pancake, I wanted more.
However, I was focusing my practice on larger cases with multiple crowns. And one of the things I look at with these types of cases is management of how the contours of the teeth next to each other affects their long term health. The E4D (Planscan) let me do this. I was able to design the entire case at one sitting, take a step back, re-evaluate and modify, if needed. Once I was happy with the design, then the milling process could continue. Not a huge issue to many, but big enough to me to make me send back a perfectly good piece of technology and switch software and hardware.
So, I hopped on a plane to Dallas, Texas for the training and to see their production facility. I was able to meet with some of the designers of the software and hardware, techs working with the machine, customer support staff and some of the docs who had been working with CAD/CAM since it’s infancy. As I flew back to Cleveland, I knew I could never let this kind of technology go. While in Dallas, the E4D scanner and milling unit had been installed in my office. The integrator (tech rep to help with first day of use) was scheduled for late Monday morning. We had patients already scheduled for same day crowns starting first thing that day, about 3 hours before the integrator’s arrival. We had already scanned, designed and cemented three crowns before he arrived.
That was just the beginning, as patients became more aware of the technology at their disposal, they would often ask, “can we use your machine for this?” Sometimes it was yes, sometimes it was no. Sometimes it was I don’t know. For the no’s and I don’t knows, we started asking why not. Many times, it was just a question of how do we get the computer to do what we want. Not being computer programmers, we had to work within the framework of the program itself. Sometimes it was straightforward, other times it was, “hey, look what we just did!” As the director of our residency program would say, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. As long as the job gets done, and done right.
The short version of the story is technology is pretty cool and finding ways to use it to provide a better result and improving the experience of the process never gets old. I’m looking forward to being an active part of the future of dental technology and sharing its benefits with you.
Find out how digital dentistry can benefit you. Call today to schedule a consultation and we can discuss this during your visit.
Yours in Dental Health,
Jason Schermer, DDS