By Danny Chan
Other than the obvious advantages that emails have over scribbly handwritten lab notes and digital x-ray images superseding duplicates of film-based radiographs, little else seems to have evolved when it comes to improving the communication between dentists and dental technicians. This breakdown in transmission is perhaps more pronounced in the area of implant dentistry, where according to Peter Newman, there isn’t a “clear pathway to achieving quality results.”
The Head of Technical at Southern Cross Dental says part of the challenge lies in different implant systems and brands varying greatly in pricing and types of componentry, while fraught with compatibility issues between them. Complications also arise when dentists are not updated on the most current prosthetic knowledge and dental technicians lack the clinical exposure. Given the knowledge discrepancies between the two groups, it is not hard to imagine the difficulties of managing what has been termed a “love-hate relationship”.
One of Australia’s biggest labs, SCD has been working hard behind the scenes to bridge the communication gap while streamlining the processes through which dentists receive technical support for their implant prostheses. A clear indication of the former objective is the lab’s deployment of dentists to oversee the communication process and review each implant case before they even reach the tech bench.
To warrant having experienced clinicians on your team, it helps to be a state-of-art lab with high volume turnover and strong market presence. In SCD’s case, turnover works out to be an average of 15,000 implant units per annum over the last three years.
Says Jonathan Evans, General Manager of Southern Cross Dental: “Having Dr Albert Sharp and Dr Brenda Baker on our team affords SCD an important clinical perspective which gives us a distinct edge over other Australian dental labs.”
“In the case of implants, where things can go off on a tangent, it becomes harder to systemise the process than say for clear aligners. The peer-to-peer exchange between dentists and technicians therefore becomes vital in keeping communications clear, open and consultative.”
Providing adequate technical support in a diverse implant marketplace teeming with brands and systems also has its share of challenges. One area where even seasoned implant practitioners may not be clued-up is regarding the various types – and system compatibility – of scan flags. To help simplify the transfer and use of digital implant impressions, Southern Cross Dental has been building an impressive library of scan bodies.
Instead of impression transfers used in conventional implant impressions, scan bodies are the digital equivalent used for determining the position and orientation of dental implants. Scan bodies are screwed onto an implant fixture and scanned directly from the patient’s mouth using an intraoral scanner (IOS). Based on these digital scans, the laboratory is able to accurately manufacture implant-based restorations using CAD/CAM technology.
“By creating a log history for every customer, we can track the rare scan body type,” Peter qualifies.
The stored information makes it easy for SCD technicians to immediately recall scan flag data based on the case reference number, promising time savings and minimal hassles. To make things even easier, the lab also manufactures its own range of scan bodies that replicate the majority of brands on the market. Using SCD’s own scan bodies, dentists need not fear miscommunication as the technicians are all too familiar with their in-house designs.
Australian dentists are also given the choice between generic and branded implant components with Southern Cross making the buying process a breeze though their supply of bundled options.
These include the competitively priced, genuine implant bundles like MIS and Straumann on the one hand and the company’s own SCD Implant Bundle (a.k.a. the more affordable generic option) on the other. The week this interview took place coincided with the release of the latest Implant Direct Bundle.
“These bundles represent the holistic view that Southern Cross Dental takes in offering dentists a seamless and efficient pathway to high quality products, efficient turnaround at affordable prices,” Jonathan attests.
Those choosing the SCD Bundle, he adds, can rest assure that they are getting comparable components and options for crowns as those from the genuine bundle – along with a whole host of materials that they can choose from for the crown restoration, which is included in the price.
There’s another layer to the price transparency. “The biggest advantage of these bundles is that dentists get a fixed price from the outset so that they have a clear idea of how to charge patients,” Jonathan explains, noting as well how some individual components can get “really, really expensive.”
“People forget that we’re not just a dental lab. We are also designers so we know these products in and out. We also own some of the most sophisticated milling machines in the world that allows us to manufacture implant products on behalf of market brands,” Peter interjects.
“The ability to design, create, manufacture, test and refine ideas with an able team of dentists, dental technicians and designers is just gold,” Jonathan summarises.
“We invest heavily in our internal systems which are genuinely world-class systems that enhance production workflow, improves communication and solidifies technical support.”
Southern Cross Dental also invests in continuing education courses for dentists, including evening sessions on the technical implications of implants.
Asked for what’s in the implant pipeline for SCD, incidentally marking 25 years in dental implant support, the General Manager says to expect more of the same value, convenience and flexibility that take the burden off the shoulders of Australian dentists – particularly those of general practitioners wading into the lucrative market.
“We hope to further explore – through our vast technical knowledge and wide network of dental implant companies – more opportunities to offer competitively priced bundled options so that dentists can find all the implant products and support they need in one place.”