Tech-savvy dental practices save money, space

Managing tight spaces is nothing new for dentists, but fitting a practice into a tiny Manhattan office requires some creativity, and for one practice, a lot of technology.

With digital imaging and 3-D printing using a Cerec system, manufactured by dental product maker Sirona, plus a handheld GLO tooth-whitening gadget, the cosmetic and implant dentists at Core Dental have managed to squeeze their practice into a 590-square-foot space. And they're saving money, according to Dr. Michael Gulizio, an owner and dentist at Core Smiles.

Using traditional methods, creating a porcelain crown would require dentists to take impressions of a patient's tooth, send the impression to a lab and receive a crown a week or more later, said Dr. Steven Cordoves, a dentist at the practice.

"Today we use a computer and a camera, and within a few seconds we can image a tooth, and produce a restoration in under two hours," Gulizio said in a CNBC interview.

Cerec 3-D imaging and printing system at the Core Smiles dental practice in New York.
Mary Stevens | CNBC
Cerec 3-D imaging and printing system at the Core Smiles dental practice in New York.

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Equipping the office with the latest technology came with a hefty price tag. The practice's start-up costs were around $300,000 to $400,000, Gulizio said.

The Cerec system cost about $180,000 when the two dentists started the practice in 2008, but it paid for itself in less than three years, all while the practice maintained a 50 percent overhead, Gulizio said.

Using dental tech has required a certain amount of tech savviness, Gulizio said.

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"It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to know how to network an office, but you do need to understand how to troubleshoot some of the glitches that occur to be efficient," he said.

But using these technologies, Core patients' time in the chair is cut in half, Gulizio estimates. And with that, there's more time to treat more patients, many of whom are attracted to the practice because of its use of time-saving technology.

The Cerec system isn't uncommon in dentists' offices; about 15 percent of dentists worldwide use it, according to its manufacturer. But Core emphasizes that the technology lets that practice fit into to such a small office in an expensive area of Manhattan.

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And using the Glo whitening system has helped the business as well.

"In the past, the lamps you would have to use for whitening would take up a lot of space. They're cumbersome, they're always in the way. … In our office, we can't have that," Cordoves said. The Glo system is about the size of an iPod, he said.

Just 588 dental practices in the United States use the Glo whitening system, according to the company.