It’s time to work smarter, not harder, for your restorative density patients.
Dental restoration cases are some of the most challenging—especially when the tooth in question is front and centre. Not only must it fit and function perfectly, but it also needs to look flawless. But matching one single central to the other single central is very tough to do and takes precious time. The other (less-than-ideal) option involves sacrificing the adjacent natural tooth and putting a crown on both teeth.
The people at Watersedge Dental Laboratory give their ideology on the dental restoration process.
Anxious Patients and Costly Appointments
Either way, it’s up to you and your dental lab partner to get this right. And, until things are as close to perfect as possible, you can count on an anxious patient and a calendar full of costly follow-up appointments.
Too Many Opportunities for Patient Frustration
When clients are happy, everyone wins. Unfortunately, during the traditional sequence of dental restoration appointments, there are many opportunities for patient disappointment and frustration to creep in.
1. Custom Shade Appointment: The process typically begins with a “custom shade” appointment at the dental laboratory, where a ceramist documents everything and the precise colour is mapped out before a crown can be produced.
From the patient’s perspective, all parties are doing what they can to help. So far, so good!
2. Delivery Appointment: Usually, the shade is checked back in the doctor’s office as part of the “delivery appointment.” Here, the temporary crown is removed, and the permanent crown is seated. Chances are, the single crown needs a modification—maybe a slight colour adjustment, a change in translucency, or an effect added, like a halo, that will help it better match the natural tooth. This triggers a “custom stain” appointment.
At this point, the patient begins to feel disheartened, and there is an increased sense of urgency.
3. Custom Stain Appointment: The patient is brought back to the lab for a “custom stain” appointment, where they meet with the ceramist for a second time, and all adjustments are made and verified. Ideally, this appointment happens on the same day as the delivery appointment, but due to busy schedules, the lab might be unable to accommodate the patient for up to a week.
The inconvenienced patient becomes frustrated and starts to lose trust in the process—and the people involved.
4. Second Delivery Appointment: Finally, the patient returns to the dentist’s office for a second delivery appointment, and the permanent crown is seated once again.
By now, a cloud looms over the patient’s long-drawn-out experience, and the likelihood that they’ll refer friends or leave a five-star review online is low. Not to mention, costs for all involved—the dentist, the lab and the patient—have skyrocketed.
There has to be a better way…
A Better Way: Introducing the “Verification Appointment”
Can something be done to improve the patient experience early on in the process and potentially eliminate expensive, time-consuming follow-ups? The answer was yes, it can.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, adding a “verification appointment” to the mix can make all the difference.
We speak from experience; thanks to hockey pucks and handlebars, our busy dental lab has seen this situation time and time again. We can confidently say that adding this extra step has been extremely successful.
So, how does it work?
First, during the “custom shade” appointment, our ceramists explain to the patient, “we’ll do everything possible to produce a crown that will match your other teeth, but your crown is in an aesthetic zone, and it requires perfection.” Then we suggest that—before returning to the dental chair—they drop by for another short, 20-minute appointment, free of charge. At that time, we hold up the crown and look at it in relation to the adjacent teeth. Together, we’ll decide if it needs any adjustments and, if yes, make the necessary changes.
(Note: We don’t offer verification appointments for slam-dunk cases or custom shade appointments for molars. We reserve them for aesthetically challenging conversations.)
Happy Patients, Happy Dentist, Happy Lab
With the addition of a verification appointment for single central cases, the patient experience is not merely preserved but enhanced. When the patient shows up at the doctor’s office for the delivery appointment, they feel cared for and confident the crown will match. (That’s a client that will spread the word about the wonderful treatment they’ve received!)
This small change also saves everyone involved time and money. At the lab, we’ve seen a drastic decrease in requests for same-day “custom stain” appointments. And when this intermediary appointment doesn’t need to happen, a second delivery appointment is also unnecessary. As a result, there’s no need for patients to take time off of work or be refrozen during a second dental appointment, and dentists and labs don’t need to reserve and sterilize rooms, pay for an assistant, or pull ceramists from the production floor.
(Note: By introducing the verification visit, the hope is that a dentist can deliver the crown at the delivery appointment and avoid rebooking the patient. Some cases, though, are more complicated, and a custom stain appointment is still needed.)
Team Up With Your Dental Lab for Success
If your dental lab partner doesn’t offer verification appointments, speak with them to see if they’d be willing to try it. If they refuse, find one that will! There are excellent laboratories worldwide that can perform this type of service for you and your patients.
Don’t wait to implement this idea—it’s a win-win for everyone!