Universal composites have replaced amalgam as the cornerstone of dental practices today. We need to look at what makes a composite a universal product and how it impacts our bottom line.
Handling is one of the most important features of a composite, and it is the number one comment from clinicians when first trying a material. However, here is where it gets difficult. Many clinicians like a stiffer material for posterior application and a creamier viscosity for anterior application. Nearly all materials today are in the middle of the spectrum in handling for this reason. To be universal, the material must meet the needs of both situations.
Polishability is another key feature if the material is used for both anterior and posterior applications. Clinicians must use a full polishing system in these areas to achieve a polish that will last and appear realistic. Nearly all universal composites polish easily and beautifully with a very high degree of shine if we simply follow the recommendations of the polishing systems.
Color and value are also essential when considering universal composites. Because our eyes are much more perceptive to discrepancies in value than color, we must select the correct translucency/opacity before considering color. I have always tried composite on a tooth before proceeding with an esthetic restoration. Selecting value first saves time because the color is always correct post-cure, saving the need to bring a patient back because of a bad color match.
Cost is a relative number, and many times we forget to factor in the additional time it takes for us to work with a less expensive material in redoing a case or because of the voids that are found because of the handling of the material. Sometimes, quality is the cheapest option!
When looking at our annual business production, we should ask ourselves, ?What can I do with that additional 20%?? The difference between 50% overhead and 70% overhead is often found in the small details of the materials we use and the time it takes to apply them.
Dr. Parker is a member of DPS' Editorial Advisory Board.