This recession has nothing on implants. Although LMT's periodic Business Barometer surveys have reflected laboratories' sluggish workloads during the last few years, our latest Implant Trends survey finds this specialty is more than holding its own. Three-quarters of our respondents say the economy has not affected their implant business; in fact, 68% report it has been "good" or even "booming" over the last two years.
Although some respondents point out that economic conditions have resulted in more single implants and fewer large cases, most laboratory owners agree that implants have remained a growth area for their laboratories. "Our implant department continues to grow in both numbers as well as restorative options, and our implant restorations continue to bring in new clients, opening the door to cross-market our other products," says Tim Trosvig, Owner, Trosvig Dental Lab, Everett, WA. "Right now, we're investing the majority of our capital into this department and with advancements like custom-milled abutments and guided surgery, the implant department will soon be our leading profit center."
In addition to those advancements in technology, survey participants say the biggest reason for the growing demand is that proven, long-term success rates have made patients much more open to implants as a viable restorative solution. "In the past, implant treatment was not the first option presented to patients because dentists feared they wouldn't accept them, but now that everyone's comfort level is so much higher, implants have become the standard of care rather than a luxury," says John Wilson, Owner, Sunrise Dental Laboratory, Yucaipa, CA.
Milled Abutments and Bars
Although respondents say progress in bone and tissue preservation and the simplification of parts are among the most significant technical advances over the last decade, the number-one innovation by far is patient-specific, custom-milled abutments and bars. "Custom-milled abutments and bars provide accuracy and precision we could never achieve previously with cast components. Also, the durability of milled titanium components will far surpass the cast components we have done in the past," says Jeff Anderson, Owner, Unique Dental Group, Sandy, UT.
The majority of respondents offer custom-milled bars (59%) and abutments (82%); most commonly, they are both designed in-house but milled by another lab or manufacturer (see graphs below). On average, respondents use custom-milled abutments for about half of their cases; they prepare stock abutments for 36% of their work and use cast custom abutments for the remaining 25%. Other Trends
Just over half of respondents say they never use generic or third-party implant parts, worrying that doing so may increase the laboratory's liability or void the manufacturer's warranty. But the remaining 45% of laboratory owners who do use generic parts for 31% of their cases say it's not an issue since some generic parts come with a warranty or because the parts are used at the doctor's request.
When it comes to treatment planning, laboratory owners have the opportunity to pre-surgically plan only 21% of implant cases. However, two-thirds say dentist-clients are generally seeking their advice about restorative options more often than they did in the past. "Implant dentistry is changing quite rapidly; there are many more options now and the costs associated with each option varies and plays an important part in the decision," says Mark Frichtel, Co-Owner, Jesse and Frichtel Dental Laboratories, Pittsburgh, PA. "Our clients rely on us to keep up with all of this information and provide them with the best possible options for each individual case."