We used to associate CAD/CAM with zirconia but, today, almost any product you want to make can be envisioned through CAD/CAM--whether it's the entire product or part of the product," said Don Cornell, Vice President of Jensen Dental, during his program, Critical Considerations for Integrating a CAD/CAM Strategy, at the 2012 Jensen Education Day event at the Swiss˘tel. "CAD/CAM is about process; it's no longer about product."
The good news is that the price of the technology is more accessible than ever before; there's an affordable option and system for every need and almost every laboratory.
If you choose to invest in digital technology, be wary of using price as a differentiator. "Don't let buyer mentality take over user mentality, meaning don't believe that if it costs more, it's better," said Greg Harris, a marketing and sales consultant, who presented alongside Cornell. "Evaluate what your customers are buying from you, get the features you need--not all the bells and whistles--and use CAD/CAM as a tool to be profitable."
Automation and the 25-30% market contraction caused by the recession are helping to fuel what Cornell calls a move toward "good enough" dentistry for posterior restorations which is, in turn, driving the growth of full contour restorations. "Full contour is not just about something that's cheap--it's good enough in this application, in this space, at this price point. It's shaped like a tooth, it blends in and margins are good."
Since full contour is growing at a faster rate than any other product in dentistry, Cornell encouraged labs to embrace the trend and be wary of over-specializing. "When it comes to full contour there are those labs that don't want to participate. They say 'that's not who I am,' but can you really afford not to participate in this business?" he asked. "Full contour is driving posterior business today--70% of teeth are posterior. If you won't participate at this price point, you run the risk of losing some clients. Don't say 'I'm implant' or 'I'm full mouth reconstructions' only--those specialty markets are shrinking."
Diversifying your product portfolio with economy restorations doesn't mean you "pollute" your other product offerings. "Just as Hilton has a brand for every need and price point--the luxury brand is Waldorf, the service brand is Hilton and the value brand is Hampton--you can offer different levels without diluting your top brand for anteriors," said Harris. "It's not about diluting your brand, but augmenting it."