Is a Fully-Integrated Digital Dental Practice the Right Solution for You?

Are you considering integrating milling facilities into your dental practice? While it may be tempting to transform your dental practice into a one-stop solution for your patients, this approach may not be the best option. In addition to the high investment costs to bring a lab in-house, you will also need to consider the time taken to implement the new technology, including training your staff members on new work processes or hiring new staff. Is your dental practice ready for the change? We share some of the advantages and disadvantages of having an in-house lab so that you can decide whether a fully-integrated dental practice is the right solution for you now.

Let’s begin with the advantages. Why should you consider having an in-house lab in your dental practice?

Quick Turnaround Times
Firstly, having your lab in-house means that your patients can receive their permanent restorations within the same day. This means that you can save your patients the inconvenience of making a second appointment just to receive their permanent restoration as the lab can quickly and efficiently make any adjustments or modifications required for the restoration. In addition, having an in-house lab ensures that high-priority cases can be treated quickly.

Quality Control
Bringing the lab in-house would allow dentists to have better control of the treatment from beginning to end. This ensures the quality of both the dental service as well as the finished product by the lab. Lab technicians will also be able to provide customized services (such as making sure that the restoration matches the patient’s teeth color for more natural results for eg.) as they can assess the patient’s needs together with the dentist during the initial appointment. By working together with the dentist from the start, the lab will minimize the risk of errors or mistakes, saving both the lab and clinic time and money.

Working with external labs may require multiple trips to the lab for adjustments to the final product. In addition, patients may be required to wear a temporary restoration while waiting for the final restoration to be completed. By bringing the lab in-house, patients not only receive their permanent restoration within the same appointment, but the clinic and lab need not waste time going back and forth to make sure the permanent restoration fits perfectly. Changes to shape, color and fit, can be made on-site if needed.

Now that we’ve discussed the advantages bringing the lab in-house, here are some considerations that you may want to look at before deciding whether or not to integrate milling facilities in your practice.

High Initial Investment
The initial cost to implement an in-house lab is high. In addition to purchasing equipment and software, the clinic will need to invest time in training and allow for an adjustment period for all the staff involved, old and new. This may not make economic sense for a small practice as the clinic may not acquire enough cases to make the investment worth the money.

Choosing a Specialization
If you’re considering implementing an in-house laboratory, you will need to decide on the lab’s specialization. Unfortunately, it is impossible for an in-house lab to take on all kinds of cases which is why clinics tend to work with different labs for different types of cases. What this also means is that even with an in-house lab, the clinic will still need to send out certain cases to another lab if it doesn’t fall within its expertise. An important question to ask yourself before bringing your lab in-house is – “Does this fall within my area of expertise?” If lab work is not aligned to your clinic’s core competencies, your clinic may end up spending more time and resources on the lab and neglecting clinical work, which is and should continue to be your main service.

Issue of Profitability
Standalone laboratories are able to offer competitive prices due to the large economies of scale. This may dissuade patients from seeking treatment at the clinic if the clinic is unable to offer comparable pricing despite the convenience of having a one-stop solution. This may result in lower profits despite cost-savings from bringing some services in-house.

While the convenience of an in-house lab may be a tempting idea, there are other ways of improving your workflow with labs that do not require integrating milling facilities into your practice. For example, you can look at communications systems which allow you to communicate effectively and efficiently with labs, such as Medit Link. In addition, by using open digital systems, you will also have greater flexibility in working with various labs which specialize in different things. Remember that there is no one-size fits all solution, so you should definitely weigh your options before making a decision with regard to your dental practice!