Industry experts gathered in Zahn Dental’s Glass Classroom (located in the back of the Digital Exploratory, Grand Ballrooms EF) to discuss the latest innovations in digital materials and digital workflow. Moderated by Joseph Saburn, Esq., the panelists spoke to a crowded room of Lab Owners and Technicians on a variety of topics. Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Digitization is here to stay. Dr. Miguel de Araujo Nobre noted that while the idea of going digital is not a new concept for the industry, it is here to stay and laboratories that are not ready and willing to adapt will struggle to continue to be successful. “We are in the midst of exciting times, but these [exciting times] will force us to adapt,” explained Dr. Nobre. “The easiest way to adapt is to set the bar high when it comes to a standard of excellence, and everything else will fall into place.” Dr. Nobre explained that knowing what you’re working toward, and what level of quality you’re willing to put out into the world, should dictate a laboratory’s decision on when and where to invest.
- Digital integration is changing workflows for the better. Dr. Ryan Dunlop shared that he had it been practicing full arch dentistry for over ten years and for the majority of that time, it was all analog. It was only in the last few years that he had pushed the digital workflow and the use of digital materials, and has been able to convert a denture into a full-arch prosthetic in one day. “3D Printing and digital design advancements allows a technician to be able to look at the patient, make decisions on the fly and create that provisional in real-time,” said Dr. Dunlop. He further explained that digital integration has changed everything from workflows to pre-op diagnosis. In regard to the future of digital integration, Dr. Dunlop sees it as “an ongoing process where the workflows will change the digital materials, and the materials will evolve to adapt to the workflows.”
- Patients are becoming more powerful. Joseph Saburn discussed the concept of ‘digital personalization’ with the panelists, further explaining how technology allows laboratories to tailor their product(s) on a digital level, where the materials that are used are genetically compatible with the individual it’s being created for. Saburn emphasized that patients are becoming smarter, more knowledgeable and therefore more demanding. Dr. Dunlop agreed, explaining that he knows his patients have high expectations, so he involves them in the process. “I will take my patient back into the lab and let them be involved in what the results will look like. We’ll print out three or four different trials in the same day, and the patient will go home knowing exactly what they’re going to get” explains Dr. Dunlop.
- Education and collaboration are critical to success. Bennett Napier pointed out that we will continue to witness the industry trending toward ‘organized dentistry,’ including DSOs, teledentistry, etc. This will also impact the laboratory industry, and it will be important for the industry to stay focused. “[We must] remember that while all of those [trends] are important and will affects us too, we still need to prioritize the relationship with the clinician and keep our focus on patient care,” explained Napier. “It will take all of us to keep this top of mind.” Dr. Miguel de Araujo Nobre commented in his closing remarks that we all need to take a team approach as the industry continues to change. Education also continues to be critical because it provides laboratories with the understanding on how to take all of this information and make it work as a competitive advantage.
- Digital technology cannot replace the human touch. Dr. Ryan Dunlop explained the difference between digital and digitized, which has been a topic of conversation within his practice. “Digital means you capture data with a digital technique,” explained Dr. Dunlop. “However, the term digitized means that you capture the data by hand – and then digitize it.” It was apparent from all panelists that while the focus continues to be on digital, there will always be a need for art. ‘Robotics and Artificial Intelligence will never have the human touch. I control technology; I will never let technology control me,” explained Jean Chiha, CDT. “Everything that goes out the door, has my fingerprint on it.” Jean uses technology to his advantage by providing higher quality and higher precision, but is very much involved in the process. Dane agreed, stating that “Robotics does not have inspired intuition the way a person does. There will always be a need for artists and creativity.”