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Will 3-D printed dentures save our profit margins?

Oct. 3, 2019
Dr. Salierno has been closely following the evolution of 3-D printing in dentistry and is happy to report that, while still years away from printing ceramic restorations, dentists can currently improve workflows and margins with dentures.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Editor, Dental Economics

I strongly recommend that dentists calculate their gross profit margins for their most common procedures. When we truly understand our costs for providing services, we can make better decisions about setting fees, participating in third-party plans, and the costs of materials and labor.

It may not come as a shock to you that, for most dentists, traditional dentures offer one of the worst gross profit margins. When you factor in all of the laboratory work, materials, and time in your operatory chair, the margins become slim compared to other procedures, especially when you’re working with some low PPO fees.

I’ve been closely following the evolution of 3-D printing in dentistry and I’m happy to report that, while we’re still years away from printing ceramic restorations, we are currently able to improve our workflows and margins with dentures.

If you want to learn more about what our profession’s thought leaders are up to, check out these articles:

(1) “You can 3-D print what?!” by Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS. In case you think 3-D printing is a fad, here’s a great synopsis of why other industries are so excited about this technology.

(2) “Your 3-D printing gut check” by Jason Lipscomb, DDS. Dr. Lipscomb provides a great overview of how dentists are using 3-D printers in their offices today. He also offers his guidance on whether or not you want to break out your checkbook just yet.

(3) “Using 3-D printing to improve removable denture workflow” by Craig Harder, DDS. Dr. Harder is quite comfortable with a hybrid workflow with both digital and analog steps. He walks through his process, revealing how to be efficient while still working with a dental laboratory.

(4) “Creating rising stars with 3-D printed dentures” by Shawn Van de Vyver, DDS. Dr. Van de Vyver reveals his costs and workflows for digital dentures, with emphasis on being able to provide a prosthesis with only a 24-hour turnaround. Admittedly, this is for dentists who are comfortable with more in-office lab work.

Removable prosthodontics aren’t going anywhere. Even with modern implantology reaching its fourth decade, there are plenty of patients who opt for traditional dentures. No doubt the skills we use for dentures are often incorporated into implant workflows as well. So, if you’re interested in how to provide these services at better margins while maintaining or improving quality, check out the articles I mention here, and dip your toes into the 3-D printing pool.



About the Author

Chris Salierno, DDS | Chief Editor, Dental Economics

Chris Salierno, DDS, is the chief editor of Dental Economics and the editorial director of the Principles of Practice Management and Group Practice and DSO Digest e-newsletters. He is also a contributing author for DentistryIQ and Perio-Implant Advisory. He lectures and writes about practice management and clinical dentistry. He maintains a blog to answer patient questions at ToothQuest. Dr. Salierno maintains a private general practice in Melville, New York. You may contact him at [email protected].

Updated Dec. 4, 2020