The intersection of Art and Science is usually defined as, “Wonder” and that is where the magic really happens.

In the past year, we have become entrenched in digital technology.  ODL operates in the cloud,  has a multitude of 3d printers, employs 3D game designers, and this is just the beginning of a new phase in orthodontic history.  

Small commercial and in-house labs starting to embark on the transition are intimidated and struggle with the technology. Moreover, they ask how we took the first step. I do not have much of an answer except to get your feet wet.  To be honest, I do not have much sympathy as the process is painstaking and takes some grit with a bit of finesse to make it successful.  When we took those initial steps is was messy and usually left a dirty footprint.  Each lab has to go through it, and there is no way around it.  No shortcuts.  

If there is one tidbit I can provide, it is creating a system or process to manage the digital workflow. Initially, doctors were taught mostly by the scanner reps that once you submit a case, it magically ends up back to the office in half the time.  Moreover, why wouldn’t it since cases did not have the initial transit time traveling from the post office to the lab? Of course, reality tells a different story.  Introducing 3D is cumbersome and disruptive to the standard workflow.

We look at technology as the savior to problems, in our case, providing a more accurate representation of a patient’s dentition. For the practice, having a better fitting appliance and a shorter turn-around time. That is the beauty of science.  Very clear, to the point, and should work almost every time.  When reality kicks back in, science falls short without the art of implementation by its side.  

In the lab environment, the real challenge is not so much bringing in the technology as knowing how to use and implement it.  We see many practices and labs buying scanners and 3d printers thinking that the “in-between” portion from scan to print will somehow come together.  For us, it took eight years to build a digital team, transition from fabricating appliances on plaster to plastic, and become familiar with the in’s and out’s of the technology. This know-how enables us to stay on schedule with production when things go haywire.  

When it comes to digital dentistry in a commercial or in-house lab setting, know that the real payoff is not in the technology itself as much as the art of implementation.