The time has come for the second phase of the digital dental revolution. The first phase was fueled by a group of large innovators that offered new digitally-powered products and services for labs. These initial offerings included outsourced closed format platforms like Procera™ from Nobel Biocare™, Straumann Cares™, Astra Tech™, now ATLANTIS™ for custom abutment, iTero/Invisalign™ and CEREC Inlab™. The next phase, on whose crest we’re now sitting, is the democratization of digital tools powered by open file formats, dramatically better quality and less expensive materials, intraoral scanning and widespread installations of in-house milling and 3D printing systems.
The leadership of the established group of closed platforms is being slowly eroded by the introduction of truly open platforms at lower costs and with enhanced flexibility. 3Shape™, Dental Wings™ and Exocad™ help march the previous establishment into obscurity with robust open platforms that enable labs to offer every service under the sun. Even 3M ESPE Lava™ and Straumann™ recently standardized on the open software platform from Canadian Dental CAD/CAM specialists Dental Wings. With these open tools available to labs at price points starting under $20,000, the allure of affordability presiding over of the entire workflow process, is more than most labs can refuse.
A five axis milling system from Roland™, like the DWX-50, powered by any of the top 3 Scanning/CAD platforms and SUM3D Roland 5 CAM software can cost a lab less than $60,000, including installation and a high volume fully programmable sintering furnace like the Sintra from Shenpaz™. Even if milling Titanium bars and frameworks is the goal, professional quality, highly accurate and durable systems like the CORiTEC™ 450i and 550i are now available from companies like Imes Icore™ for close to $100,000. With HyperDENT™ CAM software, labs can consider milling custom abutments in-house, including the interface, from 98mm Ti Discs that retail for $245 or less, placing unit material cost below $10/each.
New intraoral scanners will be the final catalyst in bringing about a full digital shift as prices come down. The new True Definition scanner from 3M was recently introduced in the United States for $12,000, a far cry from previous offerings at upwards of $30,000. As dentists make the shift, labs will quickly realize that existing milling capacity is not enough, and if they do not milling capabilities, they will need to investigate the options and the cost. New high translucency zirconia is hitting the market below $200/98mm disc, driving single unit material cost close to $5-6/unit. The proposition of full end-to-end control of the digital workflow process coupled with low costs drives Phase 2 of the digital transition in dentistry full steam ahead.