What made you decide to cooperate with a "competing" dental laboratory to jointly promote the BruxZir brand of solid zirconia?
We had been using full-contour zirconia crowns for several years on demanding veterinary cases, so we already had confidence in the material when used in this manner. I did have concerns about translucency and wear, however, so I never considered using it for humans. During a visit to Glidewell Laboratories for a CAD/CAM summit, I was shown a sample of the BruxZir material that was under development at the time. I knew immediately that it was a home-run product. I’m not even sure there were plans of any kind for an "authorized laboratory" program at the time; I just knew I wanted in, and I hounded Glidewell to include us.
I’ve never considered Glidewell Laboratories to be a competitor, but rather a supplier, a resource and a partner. Our lab had used other Glidewell products in the past, such as Prismatik Clinical ZirconiaTM (Glidewell Laboratories), so we knew the product would be extremely consistent, easy to use and affordable. We also knew it would be supported by some of the best marketing and research in the industry.
You mentioned your prior experience working with full-contour zirconia for veterinary cases. How did that come about?
Our laboratory got involved in veterinary dentistry about 25 years ago, right in its very beginnings. Historically, we made stainless steel crowns for police dogs, military dogs and zoo animals. After landmark lawsuits regarding the Fourth Amendment and use of force, there was a move to try to reclassify police dogs as a weapon rather than a tool. These dogs would be shown in court with stainless steel crowns to show how intimidating, scary and damaging they could be. So I encouraged the doctors to consider tooth-colored alternatives, and the only thing I knew of that could withstand that kind of abuse was full-contour zirconia. This was using the old LavaTM framework-type zirconia from 3MTM ESPETM (St. Paul, Minn.). As I mentioned before, it had issues with wear and translucency, so I never considered it something that would be useful for humans.
When I saw the BruxZir material at Glidewell, however, I could see how beautiful it could be. There was good documentation about the wear characteristics of the material and, as I said earlier, I knew it was going to be a home-run product. I already had confidence in zirconia because I had seen it used in the most demanding applications, and I knew that if Glidewell had dealt with the translucency and researched how the material wears, it would be perfect for humans.
Does your laboratory benefit from the national marketing exposure in ads, direct mailers and Web-based campaigns featuring Authorized BruxZir Laboratories?
Most certainly! Glidewell Laboratories has always had some of the best marketing materials in the industry, as well as a good sense of the depth of media that needs to be used to successfully promote a product. From the BruxZir website (www.bruxzir.com) and YouTube, to the printed mailers and coupon books, to speakers on the podium, the product has had an excellent presence in every media. All of these things combine to create a huge amount of momentum and name recognition for the BruxZir product, and that has certainly helped us. For better or worse, BruxZir Solid Zirconia has become the "Kleenex" of all-zirconia crowns. It’s always easier to sell a name-brand product with lots of support than to try and sell a generic version. The branding and exposure has been a study in perfect marketing of a dental product.
How specifically has the cooperation worked for your laboratory in terms of new customers, revenue and profit on full-contour zirconia restorations?
Our laboratory has always been built around the introduction of new products. Historically, every time we experienced any kind of significant increase in new customers and sales, it corresponded with the release of a new product that differed from anything else available at the time. Some past examples are IPS Empress® (Ivoclar Vivadent; Amherst, N.Y.), Wol-Ceram® (Wolz Dental-Technik GmbH; Ludwigshafen, Germany), 3M ESPE Lava and IPS e.max® (Ivoclar Vivadent). Our BruxZir numbers, in terms of sales and number of new accounts, eclipsed those other products, despite a poor economy.
When BruxZir Solid Zirconia was introduced in early 2010, the market was ready for something new and innovative. The economy had slowed. Sales of the higher-priced "premium cosmetic products" had begun to slump. BruxZir zirconia was the perfect storm of economy, performance and innovation; it really fit the mood of the country at the time. People wanted value, and BruxZir crowns and bridges allow us to deliver that, without taking a haircut on profits. Monolithic crowns require significantly less labor then traditional layered ceramic crowns, which allowed us to have a lower selling price (about two-thirds that of our previously popular product), yet still maintain profit levels equal to or even better than what we were seeing with the layered crowns. Additionally, turnaround times were cut by more than half. Right now, BruxZir crowns are leaving this laboratory in about a 48-hour turnaround period, and that is a huge advantage over any other type of crown. Then there’s the accuracy of the CAD/CAM used to produce it, which means we have better fits, higher patient and doctor satisfaction, and lower remakes than any other product we’ve ever had. I believe our current failure rate for BruxZir Solid Zirconia is .09 percent, which is the best of any product. The only thing close to that is a full-cast metal crown. So monolithic restorations are more profitable, have fewer remakes and returns, and cut turnaround times in half. It’s a win-win for everybody!
Do you have anything else you’d like to share with other dental labs about CAD/CAM processing and monolithic-type dental restorations?
Monolithic crowns and CAD/CAM manufacturing are helping to bring dental technology jobs back to America. Among statistics reported at the 43rd Annual Session of the American College of Prosthodontics in Las Vegas, Nev., the number of technicians in this country has grown 3.2 percent over the past 12 months, and wages have grown by 4.5 percent. I really believe we are beginning to see what will become a surge in the "re-shoring" of dental technology in the U.S. As labs begin to embrace the benefits of CAD/CAM manufacturing and digital impressioning, we may never face another threat of losing business to foreign labs, and we are well prepared to compete with chairside mills. I’ve never been more excited for the lab industry.
Mark Jackson, RDT, is a member of ICOI and Cal-Lab, and serves on the board of directors of the National Association of Dental Laboratories. Contact him at 909-625-8787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.