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Digital has future-proofed our laboratory

Digital has future-proofed our laboratory

Introducing a full digital capability

Aware that delaying any longer risked being left behind, lab owners Debbie Bogle and Sarah Monaghan overcame their apprehension of introducing digital into their lab and found it much easier than they thought – thanks to some expert guidance and support.

Our decision to introduce full digital capability into the lab was not taken lightly. It is fair to say that neither of us is a natural with computers and to be perfectly honest – the whole idea of digital dentistry was quite bewildering. Up until last year, we only dabbled in digital, using a scanner in-house and sending frameworks out to be milled.

We knew that we needed to get over our fear, especially as it became quite clear that digital dentistry is the future and any lab that ignored this fact was eventually going to be left behind. We are a full-service lab based in Darwen, Lancashire, called Design & Smile Ltd., which has customers across the UK. In order to stay competitive and be in a position to offer the best service to our customers, we needed to introduce digital capabilities into our workflow.

Digital Laboratory
Digital Laboratory

The first steps

We are extremely fortunate to work with a fantastic team of technicians who were open and ready to come on this journey with us. The other catalyst for taking the plunge was our local Henry Schein Dental representative, who impressed us with his open and honest attitude so much so that we decided to enlist his help in putting together the right package for us.

Before making any decisions, we wanted to see a digital lab at work as we felt this was the only way to be able to visualise how it would work for us at Design & Smile. Our Henry Schein rep took us to visit Stephen Green Dental Studio in Nottingham and we had the chance to pick Stephen’s brains and see all the equipment running in a working environment.

Shortly after, we spent a day at 3Shape’s headquarters in Reading where we were shown all the latest CAD/CAM software and had it demonstrated to us. Armed with this knowledge, we were then able to tell Henry Schein what we wanted for our lab and asked them to work out the best package for us. The range of equipment available is so wide, it would have been impossible for us to choose the right solution on our own so we were happy to consider their recommendations. What was truly refreshing was that Henry Schein was clearly thinking about what was best for us as “digital novices” and not just recommending the most expensive options.

A winning combination

Since December 2017, our lab now has two completely renovated rooms equipped with our new digital equipment. We have two 3Shape E3 dental lab scanners, three FormLabs 3D printers and a Roland milling machine. To be honest, the results have been incredible. The precision that a digital milling unit can mill to is almost impossible for the human eye to achieve, and when you compare a model printed on one of our 3D machines to a cast model, they are like chalk and cheese. The printed models are light, very precise and suffer no expansion or contraction.

Digital Laboratory 3Shape E3 scanner
Digital Laboratory 3Shape E3 scanner

It is still early days and our strategy has been to build up our digital workflows gradually. Around 30% of our business is digital now and much of this is crown and bridge. The results are so precise and the fits are fantastic whether it is a single unit or a six-unit bridge. After this success, we are trialling other digital processes with prosthetics and orthodontic work. As we are a full-service lab it will take a while to roll out digital across all departments but we are well on our way.

Constant support

Of course, there have been teething problems and some days, it felt like we were taking one step forward and two steps back, but support is always available at the end of the phone. We can book a support call with Henry Schein Dental’s technical support team at any time and they will call us back and talk us through what we’re doing. They can log in remotely if necessary and show us how to solve a problem.

We also felt fully supported on installation day. Our Henry Schein rep was there to make sure everything ran smoothly and the engineers from Henry Schein Dental installed everything for us, connecting up all the equipment from the different manufacturers without a hitch. Henry Schein Dental are also helping us with our marketing. Now that we are confident in our abilities in our crown and bridge work, we are about to launch our new website and start promoting our digital capabilities to our customers.

A new lease of life

Having consistent support and advice has been invaluable and has certainly made the experience a positive one for all the team, despite our initial apprehension. We are now in a fantastic position for whatever the future holds. There is no doubt that the future of dentistry is digital and this is a very exciting prospect; we are very happy we have taken the plunge and are looking forward to building on our digital capabilities.

It is exciting to be on this new journey and it has brought with it great enthusiasm from all our team. If anyone is thinking about taking the plunge – do it! You will not be disappointed.

Henry Schein offers a wide choice of dental laboratory technology solutions, with all the knowledge, service and support needed to help technicians navigate the rapidly changing world of digital dentistry.

Dental Digital Laboratory - Roland milling machine
Dental Digital Laboratory – Roland milling machine


For more information, visit Henry Schein Dental runs a variety of regional training courses, hands-on discovery days and post-purchase training courses. For further information, visit or speak to your Sales Consultant to find out more about courses in your area.

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