The implant market isn't slowing down anytime soon. At Nobel Biocare's LAB DAY panel discussion, featuring laboratory owners and other industry experts, the company offered these statistics:
60 million people are edentulous in one arch or another.
The "nearly edentulous"—those with two or more teeth per arch—will grow to 39 million by 2015.
Projected growth for implant-supported restorations: 9.3% over the next four years.
The average lab produces about 30 implant abutments a month; 50% of them are done via CAD/CAM.
As the market grows and more and more dentists get involved, they're looking to their technician-partners for technical guidance. "The most exciting trend I'm seeing is how interested doctors are in communicating with us about complex implant cases," said Tom Wade, CDT, New Horizons Dental Lab, Broomfield, CO, one of the panelists. "They're really willing to sit side by side to discuss and plan cases and it's not uncommon for me to meet with both the restorative dentist and the surgeon. I didn't see this years ago."
Dr. Scott MacLean agreed, saying he relies on his technician's implant experience and trusts his input. "My technician has done hundreds of implant bars and I can learn so much from him. Some of his advice has saved me hours of time," he said.
To build your implant business, panelists recommended partnering with implant manufacturers who can put you in touch with doctors, offering CE courses to dentists, and joining or starting a study club.
Representing another market trend—corporate dentistry—Dr. Mark Adams and technician Scott Adams were on-hand from ClearChoice Dental Implant Center, a network of over 30 dental treatment centers across the U.S. that provide one-day implants along with a temporary screw-retained denture; the patient returns about six months later to receive his final prosthesis.
In order to meet that initial one-day turnaround time, the Center follows a very strict protocol. "We create uppers and lowers in about three hours and it requires a real level of dedication to getting it done," says Scott Adams, Director of Laboratory Services. "We can set our watches by what we do."
Another hot topic at the event was how technology is transforming the way labs and dentists communicate on a daily basis. For instance, many panelists use Skype or similar software to virtually meet with one another and nearly half of attendees* said they're regularly communicating via texts and the internet to discuss cases and share case images.
These instant communication tools are helping dental team members quickly collaborate on cases and solve challenges. For example, panelist Dr. MacLean uses joinme.com —a meeting app that allows instant screen sharing—to share CT scans and other information on his computer with his technician. "Teach your dentists about joinme.com and how to use file-sharing websites like Dropbox to exchange photos and files and they'll see how valuable you are," said MacLean.
One important tip: if you text and exchange photos with clients via smartphone, be sure you're saving them for future reference should an issue arise. Or, if you use Facetime for a face-to-face video chat on the iPhone, software like IMCapture allows you to record the conversation.
Types of Implant Cases Attendees* are Fabricating
64% offer CBCT-planned, CAD/CAM-milled restorations
19% offer implant-supported bridges
8% offer mini implants
7% offer single-unit cases only
*Nobel Biocare's popular interactive panel discussion featured live audience polling via digital handheld devices so attendees could provide instant feedback to questions posed by Moderator Mark Murphy, DDS, FAGD. Answers were immediately displayed on a large screen at the front of the room; the 200 attendees could also send texts or emails with questions for the panel members.