Over the last few years, there has been an explosion in the number of new or improved material options for digital fabrication. LMT’s exclusive 2016 Digital Materials eSurvey* asked laboratories about how these materials are impacting their workloads and uncovered three key trends.
1. The vast majority of our survey respondents use one or more of the new super high-translucency zirconia materials. While a few respondents say that fabrication with these materials takes some “tweaking”—for example, to achieve the correct value—overall they agree the materials are an improvement over traditional zirconia, a good alternative to lithium disilicate, and offer the best of both worlds: strength and esthetics.
Just over half of respondents (56%) use a multi-layered zirconia and praise it for its ease of use, labor savings and lifelike results.
“I really like working with multi-layered zirconia, I find it very easy to work with, very easy to add on and very forgiving,” says Paul Gerhard, Owner, Gerhard’s Dental Lab, Dunedin, FL.
2. There’s been an uptick in digitally fabricated metal restorations. While the majority of digitally fabricated C&B restorations are metal-free, it’s interesting to note that one third of laboratory owner-respondents say they’re fabricating more metal restorations with digital technology than last year. Whether it’s milled gold crowns or laser-sintered restorations, the goal is the same: eliminating the labor-intensive conventional metal fabrication methods.
“The trend is moving away from non-productive technician time for spruing, investing, casting, devesting and metal finishing,” says Robert Gitman, Company Administrator, Thayer Dental Laboratory, Mechanicsburg, PA. “By having our metal copings and frameworks fabricated via SLM, all of that time can be used for more productive tasks plus the metal finishing time is reduced by half.”
Here’s how respondents’ digital C&B workload breaks down:
3. Monolithic zirconia is more prevalent than ever. A comparison of our 2016 Digital Materials Surveyand 2015 State of Digital Technology Survey shows monolithic zirconia continues to increase: in 2015, 59% of respondents’ zirconia restorations were monolithic, now 71% are. For some laboratories, monolithic zirconia is replacing PFM as their bread-and-butter work.
“PFMs have gone from being 60% of our workload to only 10%. Nearly three-quarters of our work is now full contour zirconia,” says Mark Tillman, Owner/Partner, Spectrum Dental Laboratory, Santa Ana, CA. “When we first started doing FCZ, we chose a translucent zirconia and showed clients samples next to our PFM work. They’ve been happy with the switch; they don’t have to reduce the tooth structure as much, get knife-edge margins and can marginate at tissue level. Plus clients get better pricing, stronger restorations and our lifetime warranty. What more could they want?”
* Data is based on e-survey responses from 176 laboratories that offer digital restorations; 43% are full service and 57% are C&B labs. Fifty-nine percent are one- to- five-person labs; 22% employ six to 20 technicians; 10% have 21 to 50 people; and 9% have more than 51 employees.