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Choosing the correct CAD/CAM software is an important decision.

The optimal digital workflow: Evaluating open and closed dental CAD/CAM systems

Dec. 15, 2023
Are you looking to purchase a CAD/CAM system? This is one of the most important questions you should ask: Is it an open or closed system?

In the rapidly evolving landscape of dental technology, the choice between open and closed dental CAD/CAM systems is a practice-altering decision. Each approach offers unique advantages and disadvantages, and understanding these factors is essential for making an informed decision.

Every practice has different needs, preferences, and budgets, so there’s no universal best option, and the details will ultimately reveal the best choice for each practice. For easy comparison, the topics of consideration have been broken down to a basic synopsis of their most important factors. These points will guide the reader toward an easier purchase when it’s time to go digital.

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Equipment integration and workflow efficiency

Closed systems: Closed systems provide an all-inclusive package from a single manufacturer, ensuring seamless integration between components. This cohesiveness streamlines the workflow, resulting in efficient chairside digital dentistry. The operating guidelines are specific, which leaves little room for deviation and leads to consistent and high-quality results. Service and support are centralized, making problem solving and diagnostics relatively straightforward.

Open systems: Open systems offer freedom of choice so dental practitioners can select individual components from different manufacturers. This flexibility allows customization according to personal preferences and workflow requirements. Dental reps’ who are knowledgeable about multiple options can guide practitioners to choose the best combination of equipment. However, open systems might require more effort to ensure smooth integration and workflow optimization.

Cost considerations

Closed systems: While closed systems provide a hassle-free and comprehensive solution, they often come with a higher price tag. The initial investment for a complete closed system can range from $150,000 to $175,000. Additionally, you may have to pay a monthly subscription fee for a warranty, adding to the ongoing expenses. These higher costs are partly attributed to the intellectual property protection and the limited compatibility with external equipment.

Open systems: Open systems tend to be more cost-effective, as practitioners can choose individual components at varying prices. Some scanners, for instance, are available for as low as $10,000 with incentives and credits. However, quality and compatibility might vary, and it's crucial to carefully research and seek recommendations to avoid compromising on performance.

Technological innovation and future upgrades

Closed systems: While closed systems offer a stable and reliable setup, they might limit access to cutting-edge innovations from other manufacturers. Being locked into one brand's ecosystem could mean missing out on potential advancements introduced by competitors. On the other hand, adding new equipment, such as CBCT, could be more seamless than with open system counterparts because the systems are already designed to communicate seamlessly.

Open systems: Practitioners using open systems can take advantage of advancements in different components and adopt them as needed. This adaptability allows them to stay at the forefront of dental technology and integrate the latest innovations into their workflow. However, constant upgrades and ensuring compatibility can require additional effort and research. One example of an advantage might be with a 3D printing component. An open system may validate several brands of resins, allowing expanded printing capabilities for items not carried by another vendor.

Customer support and training

Closed systems: Closed systems often come with dedicated customer support, which makes it easier to address issues and receive training. However, that support might not come from the same place where the system was purchased, as some distributors redirect support to the manufacturer, leading to potential delays and frustration.

Open systems: With open systems, customer support experiences vary widely depending on the individual equipment providers. Choosing reputable companies with strong support and training programs ensures a positive experience. The important thing is to remember that any company can sell the components. The company that helps you successfully integrate their products, as well as understand how they should coexist with other systems in your workflow, are the ones that will make the experience a positive one.

The choice between open and closed dental CAD/CAM systems is not one-size-fits-all. Embracing digital technology is an increasingly essential decision for modern dental practices. Both approaches have their merits, and the best option depends on individual practice needs, preferences, and available funds.

Dental practitioners must thoroughly research and seek advice from trusted sources to make an informed choice. Regardless of the system, a digital workflow enhances efficiency, accuracy, productivity, and the patient experience, and who you buy from is just as important as what you buy. Make sure your distributor/retailer has return and repair policies you’re comfortable with, and that they can support and educate you on the equipment.

Matthew Newman is the VP of sales operations, marketing and PR for CAD-Ray Distribution Inc., a distributor of practical CAD/CAM solutions for which they offer technical support and advanced education programs. He has spent most of his career in the fields of dental B2B, operations management, and hospitality. Matt writes articles about dental operations management, office synergy, operational efficiency, and a variety of other topics. He can be reached through direct message on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Matthew Newman

Matthew Newman is the VP of sales operations, marketing and public relations for CAD-Ray North America. a distributor of practical CAD/CAM solutions, and home of the Medit intraoral scanner. A 20-plus year veteran of operational management, he has spent his career in the fields of dental B2B, operations management, and hospitality. Newman writes articles about operational management, office synergy, startups, and a variety of other topics. He can be reached through direct message on LinkedIn.

Updated December 15, 2024