Due to COVID-19 the dental industry has to rethink infection control protocol to make the dental environment as safe as possible. The safer the dental environment is the more confident patients will be to come in. Dental Practices and Laboratories will be investing time and money in many enhancements to ensure safety.
After infection protocol is enhanced what is next? The process of delivering restorations to the patient is a good place to start. As the traditional process involves many people and steps. Lets review the traditional process of delivering a zirconia or E.max restoration.
First the doctor preps the patient, takes an impression, sends to the laboratory, shipping opens the package, model room creates a model, the model is scanned, the restoration is designed, then it is milled, removed from the mill, sintered or crystallized, glazed if zirconia, finished, goes through quality control, shipped back to the doctor with the original impression, opened by staff and eventually delivered to the patient.
If you combine the dental practice and laboratory processes the restoration may be introduced to up to 9 people. The dentist, dental assistant, shipping department, model room, scanning department, milling department, finishing department, quality control and a staff member who opens the box from the laboratory will all touch restoration.
If the restoration is thoroughly sterilized it will be safe to deliver but the perception of where the crown has been may put another hurdle in the doctor trying to sell a treatment plan.
Let’s face the facts, the dental laboratory can be a dirty place. An average size dental laboratory will have thousands of impressions processed in-house with thousands of oral environments being introduced to a small confined area. This is not good for the safety of the dental laboratory industry.
Even if you clean the impression it is not a 100% fix because many impressions come into the lab without being sterilized prior to shipment and without the impression being in a bag to hold the impression. Constant cleaning and disinfecting will minimize the risk but not eliminate the risk of a virus.
Luckily the dental laboratory industry has the tools to combat the risk of any viruses entering the business via traditional impressions, digital impressions. If COVID-19 happened in 2005 the dental industry would be completely devastated, yes more than it is today. We did not have the tools developed 15 years ago to properly process a restoration completely digitally but we do now. So let’s implement these tools.
Intraoral Scanners, Design Software, Printers & Milling Machines are all tools that are available to use now. These tools will minimize the contact points by people drastically and thus create a safer dental environment overall for all dental professionals. Because the impression is transmitted digitally not physically.
It’s simple, if the impression never leaves the practice, a virus will never leave the practice. This will minimize the risk of a laboratory becoming infected and reduce the risk of other patients becoming infected. To take it a step further, a in-house laboratory will further protect dental offices.
Through automation any dental restoration can be fabricated. The days of the “Same Day” crown and its limitation of software and hardware are over. There are tools that are cost effective that will allow the dental professional to operate at the same level of a “High End” laboratory and you can do it all digitally.
What equipment should you purchase? That is a topic for another article as there are many factors in that decision. However, unlike previous years where Cerec and E4D ruled the CAD/CAM universe, there are other manufacturers and software companies that can offer more capabilities for less investment. Such as, Amann Girrbach, Exocad, Roland, VHF, Medit, 3 Shape, Sprintray, Nextdent and more.
The industry was already going towards automation prior to the introduction of COVID-19. The equipment available today has raised the quality of restorations immensely. Now, this same automation can help us truly take control and protect our businesses.
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