3M’s True Definition Digital Oral Care: An Interview with Dan McMaster

Today we’re talking with Dan McMaster, a Global Business Director at 3M. He works with their digital oral care and their preventative care, and, as a very forward moving company, it’s great to see their products changing dentistry. Digital dentistry has been around for around a decade, but it’s still growing and it will be exciting to see what the future holds.

Dan’s background is in chemical engineering, with a degree from University of Utah, then went on to receive and MBA from the University of Michigan. After spending time in their corporate strategy group doing strategic planning for various 3M divisions, he moved to the dental division. With the strong culture evident in the division, Dan soon made the move to working with them and the future of digital dentistry.

A 10-Year Forecast

In 2006, the 3M Healthcare division were looking for ways to innovate and invest, and how they could advance digital oral care. The result? The True Definition digital scanner. 3M’s primary focus is on the digital side where they’ve developed a CAD/CAM system, which is used in the Lava system.

Like with any technology, digital scanning changes are happening so quickly. What began as a CAD/CAM system with zirconia has become one of the best and most affordable digital scanning systems available today.

The Growth of Labs Going Digital

While practices are still discovering the digital tools, labs have been using them for nearly a decade. Today, nearly all labs are using CAD/CAM for restorations. Some clinicians may believe that their lab doesn’t do it, but oftentimes the lab will take digital scans of the impressions.

A Problem of Rapidly Changing Technology

It can be herd to convince a practice to invest in technology that in two to three years will need an expensive upgrade. Especially when looking at some scanners available that have accuracy issues. These scanners will need a $47,000 upgrade every few years, which is a cost that’s hard to justify. But, 3M has created an affordable tool and maintenance program to make digital dentistry more of a reality.

The Digital Disconnect

Often times, dentists are slower to adopt new technology, which makes sense for a few reasons. While labs can have a pretty clear return on their investment, doctors see the upfront cost of a CERAC and the training time. For those who have been in business for 30 years or longer, they often want to continue the techniques they’ve been using their entire career.

But, the adoption curve moves when we’re talking about younger dentists that have grown up in the digital age. They live in the world of digital that’s fast, convenient, and accurate. However, since they’re in a different financial situation, they may not have the capital to invest in a CERAC machine for $140,000 or a Trio scanner for $50,000. This is where the 3M True Definition Scanner comes in.

The 3M True Definition Scanner

While the cost may still be factor for some dentists (in the $16,000 range), it’s at the intersection of affordability and quality that many doctors are looking for.

  1. Its small camera can be used for multiple applications.
  2. It’s affordable.
  3. A flat monthly rate includes data and software updates.
  4. Equipment upgrade is one tenth of a CERAC, at just $4,000.
  5. An open system for file flexibility.
  6. It just works.

3M understands dentists don’t want the hassle and financial investment for a piece of technology that won’t work, so they’ve made it easy to use and a high quality finished product. Where the CERAC has a closed system, dentists are able to take a scan from the True Definition scanner and use it for multiple applications, making the financial outlay less because of the versatility.

The Secret to Accuracy

Instead of relying on a powder and the inevitable mess that’s required for other scanners, 3M has developed a contrast spray. It helps eliminate some of the shiny spots, and helps maximize accuracy to get better digital impressions.

It takes less than a minute, and saves you time on the backend in the seating. Begin with something accurate, and you’ll create a better product.

Dr. Hornbrook surveyed 45 dental labs last year, and each said the digital impressions were the most accurate. Although the loss of a physical model can be hard to adjust to, moving to solely digital impressions saves roughly 30% of a single-unit restoration.

A Quick Turnaround Time

When a dentist sends in a digital impression, we’re able to turn it around in three days, whereas traditional impressions add time. This creates a win-win-win situation. The dentist has a quick turnaround, the lab receives a better impression, and the patient receives a superior restoration.

The Flat Service Fee

3M is upfront with what you’ll pay to keep your digital scanner working optimally, which is $199 a month. This includes service and all software upgrades. (The hardware upgrades every few years are an additional cost, but much more affordable than other brands, as seen above.)

Because this is three to five year technology, it often makes sense to pay less up front and pay for upgrades via a monthly service contract, like a cell phone plan. Dentists using other brands pay nearly $500 a month to do what 3M is doing for $199.

The Future of Digital Dentistry

With the development of digital scanning, more information can be included in patient records. In general, patients are becoming more involved in their healthcare, and they want as much information as possible to make the most informed decisions possible.

There’s a convergence between oral care and medical care, and 3M sees a future where patients will look to dentists for comprehensive diagnoses and treatments. These digital technologies help with treatment planning, and when the patient receives optimal care, everyone wins.

It’s hard to believe this is our 31st podcast on Dental Up, and we’ve had a lot of fun talking with Dan today. We hope this has been informative, and be sure to check out our other resources, both here and on our website.

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