A remake rate to celebrate
UK lab owner Steven Campbell went from two to 22 employees in six years. How? Digitalization. The 30-year veteran of the industry recalls what fueled the change: “I recognized that something wasn't working in the industry…the numbers of technicians were declining, and we were kind of stuck in the dark ages,” Steve says. “That’s when I quit my old ways, got rid of all analog processes and started a completely digital dental workstream.” Steve tells us about how he transformed his lab from “old school” to cutting edge and why formula 1 racing is a little like dentistry.
Q: What are the best first steps to take when adopting a digital workflow?
A: My very honest answer is to get a good CAD package because you want it to be efficient and effective. You don't have to start with implant planning and very complex denture work. You can just start with a single crown. If you just start by scanning and accepting scans by having exocad, you can then send it to other partners. I'm in the UK. I've got a design partner in Canada. We don't do a lot of Michigan splints, but they do. I take the scans in, and I send them over. Then we work on the finishing and the detailing.
Q: Sounds fairly easy—even for those new to digital.
A: The journey is so easy. Just get the software, start saying to surgeons, ‘Yes, I can accept digital,’ and find a design partner—there are so many out there who are vying for your business. But what you will do, because all of us do it, is you start to see those designs coming back and think, ‘why don’t I have a go at this one?’ And then you’ll do a single crown. And then the next time you think, ‘I'm quite comfortable with all of these, then I'll do a bridge. I'm comfortable with this. Then I'll do an implant.’ Before you know it, you will be doing really advanced work.
“Digital surgeons send us a scan and we can work on it literally two minutes later.”
Q: Any software tips for labs starting out?
A: My number one bit of advice is start with exocad because it’s an open system. We get scans from every scanner system. We can import them all in. All our partners are happy to work with us using exocad. We say exocad plays nicely, and that's the truth.
Q: In addition to your love of exocad, you’ve also mentioned that you love digital surgeons. Why?
A: Because digital surgeons send us a scan and we can work on it literally two minutes later. We don't have to wait for it to be poured to then give them a phone call say, ‘I'm really sorry, but it's not very good impression.’ They can see on their own screen how good it was. If they send us a scan in the morning, they'll get a proposal back in two hours. It's transformed the communication between us.
Q: Do you think that analog-only surgeons will start feeling more pressure to go digital from labs?
A: They're going to get lab-side pressure for sure. A friend of mine said to all his clients, ‘In a year's time, if you don't have an intraoral scanner, and you’re not sending me scans, I won't work with you anymore.’ I thought that was a brave move. It turns out, it's been the best move he ever made because all the labor time he had in his plaster room is gone. He is 95% purely intraoral scan digital.
“We nail it before we make it. It's a paradigm shift in how we deliver dentistry.”
Q: Your lab’s grown exponentially in the past few years. What’s driven that?
A: We’ve gone from two to 22 employees, and this is only our sixth year. Now that for me is mind blowing. That was purely because we moved away from any workflows that were ineffective. The other side of it is the improved communication. For instance, even if a surgeon isn’t digital, they can use exocad’s webview. With webview, you can view designs from anywhere and move the design in 3D. They can take elements in and out, which means that we can show them the plan before we make it. So I’m not committing to expensive resources and materials to make something they don't like. Our remake rate has fallen through the floor. Our rejection rate is incredibly low. We were used to seeing cases always coming back in. Patient doesn't like it, or they don't like this shape, etc. We don't get that anymore. We nail it before we make it. It's a paradigm shift in how we deliver dentistry.
Q: Another paradigm shift we see in many industries, dental included, is that location has become largely irrelevant. How does that pertain to your work as a digital lab?
A: This is the big message for digital dentistry. Geographic boundaries don't exist anymore. If the very best smile design team happen to work in Romania, guess what? You can utilize that and just send a scan to them. If they happen to be in Canada, like our design team, we'll utilize them for all our splints.
Q: And it doesn’t really matter where your lab is based too, right?
A: Yes, I mean, we're based in a very rural part of the world. North Yorkshire is gorgeous but remote. It's not easy to recruit the most highly skilled people, but a friend who worked with us here moved to the beach in Tenerife. It didn't matter that he moved physically. He's still part of my team. Every day we use dentalshare. We send cases to each other and back to the surgeon in London. We've got Harrogate, Tenerife and London, all on one case.
Q: Ok, time for some fun questions. Manual or electric toothbrush?
A: Electric, come on. I can't use a manual toothbrush.
Q: Flossing morning and evening?
A: I use the new TePe picks, because, man, I'm terrible with flossing. Thank goodness, I've got a very good hygienist.
Q: What's your passion?
A: Running and coffee. Probably need the run to burn off the buzz from the coffee.
Q: Favorite movie or podcast?
A: Movie? Definitely, Goonies. Who doesn’t grow up wanting to find a pirate ship? Podcasts – I follow a lot to do with Formula 1 and modern racing. I love the technical side of it. I see a lot of Formula 1 in dentistry: time pressure and teams having to work together. I cheer the teams more than the drivers.
Q: What word do you think of when I say “exocad?”
Steven Campbell is a GDC registered dental technician with almost 30 years’ experience in the industry. Working with skilled teams and some of the most highly regarded dental surgeons in the UK, he and his team at Nexus Dental Laboratory provide solutions for all aspects of restorative dentistry, especially implants and the new digital and CAD/CAM workflows. When not in the lab, Steve can usually be found at a dental event learning from his peers or representing one of the many dental organizations he has been invited to work with, including his current role as President of the Dental Laboratories Association. Rare time off is spent running with his family in the beautiful countryside that surrounds him in North Yorkshire. Keep up with Steve and his team on Instagram.