The Bottom Line

Big Picture Strategies To Help You Grow Your Dental Business

Helm Dental Laboratory

Investing in the Right Technology is Key for Businesses Growth

However, according to the Voice of Small Business in America: 2019 Insights Report by Goldman Sachs, small business capital is often used to maintain operations rather than fuel strategic growth. Between labor costs and the daily costs to keep a business running, it can be hard to rationalize new and unfamiliar investments. Business owners have to trust that they’re making the right decisions for them.


Key Takeaways from Kurtis Helm

Kurtis Helm, owner and founder of Helm Dental, has been in the dental industry for over 33 years. Helm has observed how technology in dental has been rapidly accelerating in the last ten years and is sharing five strategies that have helped him to grow his business:

Tip No. 01

Know the Total Cost of Your Investment

When calculating cost, it’s easy only to consider upfront costs. Often, this doesn’t capture the true cost of expenditures over time. To understand true cost, you need to consider all associated costs of ownership. Frequently, costs can creep up and add up over time, such as ongoing maintenance, replacement parts, software upgrades, training, and service calls.

It’s often worth investing more in a technology solution with dependable performance. Helm Dental uses its mills for 12 hours every day to create zirconia applications like crowns and bridges. When the mills break down, the dental lab has to recoup the costs and lost productivity from the unplanned downtime. That’s why Helm values the Carbon subscription model. With the Carbon printers in his lab, Helm doesn’t have to worry about budgeting for unforeseen maintenance and support costs.

Helm decided to invest in the subscription model after one of its previously purchased 3D printers broke down, and the dental lab had to outsource to other labs to fulfill its cases. While the 3D printer company sent several technicians to fix the printer over the next couple of months, these services cost Helm over $35,000. The printer lasted a month and a half before it broke again.

Even when technology is dependable, many businesses are still afraid of investing in technology that will become obsolete after a few years. As Helm shares,

“We’re always talking to doctors, and many are hesitant to invest in technology because of the possibility of becoming obsolete.”

Tip No. 02

Optimize Workflows to Attract Qualified Employees

According to the Voice of Small Business in America study, “Despite the eagerness to hire, 76% of small business respondents shared it was difficult to find and keep employees with the skills and experience they need.” Similar to other businesses, Helm has struggled to find qualified employees.

Traditional dental technicians may require many years of training, and the average age of Helm Dental’s dental technicians is over 50. However, with digital dental production, Helm Dental can attract a wider pool of candidates. Training for dental technology software is much easier, and the production process requires fewer resources.

3D printing also allows Helm Dental to optimize its workflow by producing more parts, faster. The dental lab now creates surgical guides 18 times faster than before with its Carbon printer. Helm can produce six surgical guides in one hour with Carbon, compared to the three hours required to produce one surgical guide with milling.

Helm Dental does most of its production today with a team of twelve using Carbon, compared to the forty it needed for traditional analog production. Says Helm,

“The volume of work we do today with digital production on our Carbon printers would take a lot of technicians to produce at the bench with analog production techniques.”

Tip No. 03

Start Producing Sooner

The ability to deliver products to customers faster is a crucial way to stay competitive. With many new workflows, the time it takes to find employees with existing knowledge or train employees can be lengthy.

The software for digital technology has helped automate many manual workflow steps, making it easier to complete tasks. Helm Dental’s employees have been able to quickly adapt to Carbon’s software and are learning the nuances of dentistry on the job. Helm says,

“Currently, doctors submit a case to our lab, and the software will provide 90% of what is needed to produce an appliance.”

Helm foresees that, in the future, software will automate the design process for parts completely before 3D printers manufacture them.

Tip No. 04

Consistency is Key

Doctors typically source parts from 3-4 different dental labs, and most labs believe that price drives customer attrition. However, Helm thinks that the lack of consistency in parts is the real reason why many labs lose business. Many labs have a collection of printers and scanners, which creates inconsistent end-product results.

Realizing this, Helm decided to invest solely in the Carbon DLS™ process to ensure that all parts produced at Helm Dental are consistent. Carbon’s highly consistent product quality means doctors can plan their schedules for new customer fittings instead of investing chair time in refits.

“You don’t have inconsistency issues that a lot of other labs struggle with, with Carbon. Also, with the accuracy that Carbon DLS provides, we know exactly how long it’s going to take to produce a part.”

Tip No. 05

Minimize Business Disruptions

The one resource that every business is limited in is time. Continuing to use and make the most out of existing equipment regardless of how well it performs may seem like a way to save money. However, it might be worth looking into a more reliable option if the equipment requires an excessive amount of time to fix issues or causes lost productivity.

The last thing any business owner wants to spend their time on is troubleshooting equipment issues. That’s why Helm counts on Carbon. He never has to worry about unplanned downtime with Carbon printers as they feature continuous predictive maintenance.

Helm Dental currently has four Carbon printers and loves that the technology anticipates issues before they happen. According to Helm,

“On the rare occasion that a printer goes down, Carbon’s exceptional and highly responsive support gets us back up and running quickly. Our reps once notified us that one printer was going to have issues before we knew it.”

All this makes it easy for Helm to know how long it takes to create each case, and in return, the true cost of each case.

The Bottom Line

While we’ve covered five best practices to help grow your business, there are many other things to consider when thinking about your business model and how to invest in growth. Other considerations include what investments, including technology, make financial sense for your business and how to determine what areas of improvement are worthwhile.

The key is to be flexible and understand what you’re solving for. As Helm says,

“For every problem, there is an opportunity. More than ever before, the right tools are out there. If you’re struggling with your business model, change it.”


To learn more about how Helm reshaped its business strategy with Carbon, reach out to us at

3D as It’s Meant to Be