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a blog by Chris Barrow

A guest post from Dr. Marcos White


Build your own digital lab in 3 easy steps. For 3 easy reasons: profit, control and personal reward.

All these digital innovations in our everyday life. Always promising to make things more efficient.

Dentistry has always been an industry of early innovators. Where innovation in materials, science and tech were bought into, always with a promise that they would repay their investment. Either through increased revenue or big savings in time and hence impact to the bottom line.

So we find ourselves always searching for that dental utopia, where you could buy the gadget AND bank the savings.

Well, when it came to investing in digital into oral scanners as a replacement for traditional dental impression materials I found this to be true. And that started me on a journey of discovery and business building that I’m going to share with you today.

Firstly let me paint a brief picture of myself to add a little context.

Yes, I am an early adopter and natural innovator. I love a good idea. I often think the status quo is flawed and am always looking to shake it up. I often look to tech, specifically digital tech, as a way to make life and it’s organisation leaner.

However I would always need a business case to be robust before making an investment in new equipment or software. To the uninitiated, what I mean by a business case is that in a simple sum I can prove that the investment is going to make me money or at least be cash neutral.

When it came to a recent acquisition of a CBCT scanner I baulked at the investment for almost 3 years because I couldn’t rationalise the business case. It wasn’t until I was referring such a high volume of patients for scans which I was paying for (all inclusive case pricing for implant treatment – don’t judge me) that I did the sums again. When I reached a certain level I realised that the money I was spending was now equal to what I would be paying for a CBCT on monthly finance. Which I would one day own.

So the first step towards building an on site digital lab came with the purchase of a 3shape Trios scanner. The ‘reason’ at the time was better accuracy, better insight into my own preps and that scanning would avoid errors and hence save time (and hence save money).

As it turned out the initial business case was much more concrete than that. In simple terms I added up all our impression material spend, impression trays, implant copings, implant analogues and other implant consumables over a year, and discovered we were spending more than the finance for the Trios would be. Immediately making money whilst elevating our standards and patient experience.

And it gets better.

What I hadn’t at that time considered was the knock on lean effect it would have. No need to order ortho boxes to store study models and old cases. No need to pay staff to store them and devise a system. No need to sterilise impressions. No bits of alginate all over the floor. And so it goes on.

Fast forward 18 months and we now have an on site digital lab with a scanner, a mill and a ceramist. 2 bits of tech and 1 new member of staff.

Over the last 12 months we have designed and fabricated all our dental and implant restorations: veneers, crowns, bridges, implant crowns and bridges – even full arch implant bridges.

We never take a putty and wash impression. Everything is captured digitally. Our scans are emailed to a colleague who prints our 3D printed models and we receive these 48 hours after scanning, after which everything else happens on site.

Recently I carried out a little number crunch to see how profitable our fledgling lab business was. It only has 1 customer: me. I looked at our porcelain spend on implants, veneers and posterior crowns in the previous year and put that number in column 1.

I then added up our staff costs (1 ceramist), material costs (porcelain and implant abutments), and equipment finance costs over the last 12 months and put that in column 2.

The difference between column 1 and 2 was a staggering £75,103.46. Pure profit. Straight to bottom line.

So, obviously I’ve missed out the bits in the story where it was a bit challenging. But nothing this rewarding dentally or financially comes easy.

I am running a 2 day course in Leeds in September to tell my story and how it can be replicated at whatever level my dental colleagues feel comfortable.

It could be investing in their first digital intra oral scanner.

It could be learning how to use the Cerec scanner they already own for more than just porcelain inlays; learning how to design and restore implants.

Or it could be going the whole hog. Realising that taking ownership of the design, appearance and function of the final dental restoration may be the most rewarding career decision they ever make.

See the link below for more details and for booking:

Marcos White

The Courtyard

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