Purpose: To compare time-efficiency in the production of implant crowns using a digital workflow versus the conventional pathway.
Materials and methods: This prospective clinical study used a crossover design that included 20 study participants receiving single-tooth replacements in posterior sites. Each patient received a customized titanium abutment plus a computer-aided design/computer-assisted manufacture (CAD/CAM) zirconia suprastructure (for those in the test group, using digital workflow) and a standardized titanium abutment plus a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown (for those in the control group, using a conventional pathway). The start of the implant prosthetic treatment was established as the baseline. Time-efficiency analysis was defined as the primary outcome, and was measured for every single clinical and laboratory work step in minutes. Statistical analysis was calculated with the Wilcoxon rank sum test.
Results: All crowns could be provided within two clinical appointments, independent of the manufacturing process. The mean total production time, as the sum of clinical plus laboratory work steps, was significantly different. The mean ± standard deviation (SD) time was 185.4 ± 17.9 minutes for the digital workflow process and 223.0 ± 26.2 minutes for the conventional pathway (P = .0001). Therefore, digital processing for overall treatment was 16% faster. Detailed analysis for the clinical treatment revealed a significantly reduced mean ± SD chair time of 27.3 ± 3.4 minutes for the test group compared with 33.2 ± 4.9 minutes for the control group (P = .0001). Similar results were found for the mean laboratory work time, with a significant decrease of 158.1 ± 17.2 minutes for the test group vs 189.8 ± 25.3 minutes for the control group (P = .0001).
Conclusion: Only a few studies have investigated efficiency parameters of digital workflows compared with conventional pathways in implant dental medicine. This investigation shows that the digital workflow seems to be more time-efficient than the established conventional production pathway for fixed implant-supported crowns. Both clinical chair time and laboratory manufacturing steps could be effectively shortened with the digital process of intraoral scanning plus CAD/CAM technology.