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by . Dreamworks Dental Laboratory,

Dental Laboratories – What Makes A Competitive And Safe One

Dental laboratories manufacture or customize a wide range of dental products and therapeutic devices to give you that perfect set of white teeth and, provide overall oral healthcare. Some common dental care products include; Crowns, Bridges, Dentures, Dental implants and Fillings.

A better life they say starts with a beautiful smile. Precision, functionality and the fitness for intended use is of utmost importance for these products. A flaw in the product can cause discomfort and in more severe cases lead to further complications. The manufacture of such therapeutic devices and items require skill and experience on the part of the dental technician to produce high quality products. Dreamworks Dental Laboratory provide the highest quality to Toronto Dentists at competitive prices while providing the best results for you and your patients

Dental Laboratory Technology is both science and art and as a result involves many sophisticated equipment and procedures such as computer-based scanning, CAD-CAM Imaging, milling and restoration planning. Not all health service providers can afford the cost of running this high-end technology so they opt for technicians who are experts in their field. Patients generally prefer a mix of highly skilled technicians and good facilities.

Dentures, fillings and retainers were manually produced using moulds and impression and this sometimes caused them to be ill-fitting.. Today the use of modern dental technologies has reduced cases of ill-fitting Dentures through the use of computer programs which take the measurements of the patients in millimetre to ensure accuracy. This leaves little or no room for error in the product or on the part of the technician resulting in a durable product and a happy patient who isn’t afraid to laugh, sneeze or chew properly.

Hygiene, product and patient safety is of high importance in dental laboratory facilities. A wide variety of microorganisms exist in the normal flora of the mouth, which can be released at any point during either surgical or non-surgical dental procedures, leading to contamination and eventually the spread of highly pathogenic diseases such as; Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and AIDS in worst-case scenario.

Sterilization and decontamination of tools, equipment and working surfaces has a key role to play in promoting hygiene of the facility; and thus there should be strict adherence to the specified standards for sterilization of tools and the proper storage of all materials. Safety should be the watch-word in the use of all tools to prevent and protect all the personnel and patients involved for coming in harm’s way.

The use of disposable hand gloves may seem negligible but they offer protection to dentists and prevent them from coming into close contact with body fluids from patients. This helps reduce the risk of contamination and ultimately the spread of deadly bacteria and viruses.

Dental technicians work with a variety of materials including waxes, plastics, alloys, stainless steel etc, some of these materials can be dangerous to work with. A good example is Silica dust used in the manufacture of artificial teeth, when inhaled in large amounts it can lead to various complications in the lungs including lung cancer. The use of protective gears ranging from ear muffs, to nose masks, shoes and eye goggles will reduce the risks associated with exposure to radiations and loud noise emitted during the creation of dental fixtures and devices.

Working in a Dental Laboratory

Dental devices and therapeutic products used to correct various oral and dental defects are produced in dental laboratories. Each patient’s dental needs and anatomy is different from the other, therefore each item (dentures, crowns, veneers and orthodontic appliances) has to be customized to suit each person. Mass production of dental items is therefore unnecessary and will only cause a waste of resources..

Working as a dental lab Technician though a rewarding career is no easy job as it requires a lot of stamina (as most of the work is done standing for usually a long period of time), patience as well as skill. Having steady hands is also a plus, as most of the work is done using the hand. This job isn’t suitable for people who easily get tired from repeating the same procedure over and over again then because most the patients have similar, if not the same dental complaints.

The daily use of technologically advanced equipment and techniques in the design and manufacture of various products to reach and maintain stipulated specifications and precision is the core duty of a dental technician. Time is taken to make each dental piece to be both functional and attractive, as a result a dental technician must be able to prioritize workload, efficiently manage time while making sure to meet the precision requirement of each piece. The job of a dental technician is a fast-paced one and it’s as interesting as it gets, most times technicians get so busy making hours only seem like minutes.

For each crown there is a cross, same applies to becoming a certified dental technician. It is a very satisfying and rewarding job; however it requires a lot of studying and training in institutions of higher learning, as well as certifications from various professional bodies

Selecting the right dental laboratory for your practice

As a dental practitioner, the choice of a dental laboratory partner(s) is crucial considering the emotional, as well as financial effect it can have on you, the dental practitioner and the patients. On the average, almost 38% of the general practice’s internal revenue is earned through dental corrections involving a fixed crown and bridge work. Recent survey shows that dentists rate quality and consistency as the most fundamental factor when making a choice for a dental laboratory. Other characteristics sought-after by dentists in a dental laboratory include; reputation, effective communication and short turn-around time. Statistics also shows that as much as 64.5% of dentists use 2 to 3 fixed indirect laboratories, and close to 33% of dentists are said to have switched laboratories in the last 2 years, with inconsistency of the laboratories being a major cause for the switch.

Efforts through continual assessment and improvement have to be made on the part of the doctors and their team members in the areas of communication, relationship management and technical skill to obtain desirable outcomes as a quality dental laboratory. Also, it is necessary to examine the communication and leadership skills which are most desirable in the process of choosing a superior dental laboratory. Some issues and problems faced in selecting a dental laboratory will be treated in this article.

Begin with realistic expectations

Honesty they say is the best policy; enduring relationships either personal or professional should be built on honesty. Perfection should be the goal of your practice and laboratory team. Quality and consistency that is expected from dental laboratories is difficult to obtain sometimes. In reality, various uncontrollable complications can arise during the actual carrying-out and delivery of patient care which can sometimes end up affecting perfection in some cases. Notwithstanding, a reliable doctor/technician relationship, predictability and quality products and results are obtainable.

Is my practice compatible with the laboratory under consideration?

You should analyze your own practices, prior to searching for the best dental laboratory. You have to ask ourselves if your business vision conveys your treatment philosophy. Are you prepared to pay for the type of quality you claim to be searching for, just as you also expect your patients too to do? After you have answered these questions and also determined your own goals and vision, then a suitable and compatible dental laboratory in line with your practices will not be difficult to find.

It is always safer to select a dental laboratory with policies, goals and visions that overlap with yours as a doctor. Consider their relationships with patients, products and other personnel; are they product-production or doctor-patient-product-service oriented? A good laboratory should be able to consistently give you quality and value for the prices they charge.   Also, do they provide technical support and patient follow-up? Is continuity in education center-stage for the personnel and doctors they serve?

Quality with consistency or high production with low fees?

A dental practitioner that operates on a fee-for-commodity philosophy is not compatible with a quality fee-for-service-based dental laboratory and vice versa. Doctors as well as laboratory owners are confronted with the same quality-versus-quantity problem. As the dental laboratories are forced into high production there is; exponential increase in the stress, the urge to release products in hurry, poor employee monitoring and training leading low morale on the part of the employee and consequently, the birth of countless technical problems. This in turn leads to a reduction in quality, consistency, and scheduling becomes a very big problem.

High-end production business philosophy and the seasonality of doctors gives the laboratory sales force a sense of job security as they are always in constant struggle to get new clients and keep them. Also, lower fees is generally associated with high production businesses because the doctor’s decision to buy is basically dependent and influenced by price and not on quality, consistency, service or support. This approach will ultimately lead to exhaustion and diminished interest for all involved.

The reasonable solution is the decision and the commitment to pay for the level of quality, consistency, and service which we sought for. Having an insight into the inter-business fee relationships is a good advantage. Caution should be the watch-word when a financial consultant suggests working with another laboratory without full knowledge of their view on stress, relationships, referral, practice image and the profit they promise to improve. This could sometimes prove to be a ‘penny-wise but pound foolish’ decision in the end.

Visiting the Prospective dental laboratory  

Taking time to get to know the dental laboratory is necessary before finalizing the decision to engage in a long-term partnership. This entails getting more information outside what was seen in advertisements or what the sales person preaches about. This extra but informative piece of detail can only be obtained first-hand by paying a visit to the dental laboratory unannounced on a workday. Some details to look-out for include:

  1. General appearance and cleanliness (internal and external) of the dental laboratory. Your findings should help you answer questions like; Does the appearance suit and complement your type and style of dental practice? Is there a reception area with an employee devoted to welcoming and greeting guests and patients? Is there adequate and accessible parking space for guests and patients?
  2. Are you going to be confident about sending your patients to this laboratory for a tour of the facility?
  3. What is the atmosphere of the dental laboratory? Stressful, friendly, tensed, relaxed, professional?
  4. Are the technicians professional and courteous as you are introduced to them? Are they dressed appropriately for their job?
  5. Take note of the way the technicians communicate within themselves. Are their work spaces neat and well-organized? Are they using the appropriate instrument when necessary?
  6. Are the case pans clean, organized and fitted to the size/type of the appropriate cases?
  7. Does the laboratory have most/all of the different restoration tools, equipment and production capability that you need? Are there plans to improve on the available restoration selection?
  8. How are new materials chosen for the doctors? Are the dental technicians put through training on a material before it is incorporated? Are any of the doctors involved in the process of decision-making?
  9. Ask authorization to select and inspect at least a dozen cases which they are currently working on; be sure to pick different types of restoration. Take time and carefully access the procedure and try to answer questions such as; how are larger cases being handled? Bite registrations, Occlusion or Articulators? Does the laboratory take time to follow-up and track the progress of its cases? Pay attention not only to the quality of work but also, to the quality of impressions and preparations made by existing doctors. Are the technicians finishing-up work on cases called back or returned for a re-prep or another impression? All these little details will inform you in what you need to know about their business philosophy and their approach to service and technical assistance. You can also get an idea of how effective communication is between the technicians and their doctors.

Interviewing the Owner of the Laboratory

 Meeting the owner of the laboratory is necessary. Priority and positive energy on your part and that of the laboratory owner is key to making the meeting a success and ensure that relationship starts on the right foot. It is always better to plan the meeting outside the laboratory and/or practice facility. This will make room for meaningful communication as well as an undisturbed meeting which give way for both parties to be able to speak honestly and privately on any issue that concerns the other. A minimum of 90 minutes should be dedicated for this important meeting; a breakfast meeting before the start of work for the day is most preferable. Avoid squeezing this meeting at lunch time or in the middle of a busy workday. The possibility of being late and the rush to return to work in time to see an afternoon patient can undermine this important event.

Why meet?

Inform the laboratory owner that getting to know each other on a personal basis is the main aim of the meeting. Creating an inter-personal relationship with the laboratory owner should be a priority before diving into business. Some dentists often fail to see the importance of building such relationships; this also is seen in the cases of some laboratories too. Establishing relationships helps in building trust, communication and overall strengthen business between both parties.

Both parties should understand that either of them can decide whether or not to work together before the meeting and, accept that either of them has the other’s best interests in mind. Final decision must not necessarily be reached at the first meeting. Meeting more than once may be necessary before you feel the right foundation has been established which will foster a good business relationship.

What do we first talk about?   

It is pertinent that the discussion of techniques and material in the first meeting should be avoided as much as possible. There will be time later-on in the relationship to discuss technicalities and materials. First meetings should be centered and focused on obtaining relevant information about the ability of both parties to be able to work together in a business partnership.

Some topics to cover are listed below, these topics will help you identify if the laboratory owner will be able to form a partnership with you to create exceptional work. Keep in mind that the outcome of this meeting will affect the success or failure of the relationship, the profits enjoyed and the amount of stress in completing tasks in the nearby future.

  1. Start with an introduction, personal information such as education, family life, employment history, sports, interests and hobbies.
  2. Share your visions, goals and business philosophy.
  3. Ask the laboratory owner his or her visions and objectives for the dental laboratory. The owner will feel uncomfortable and unprepared if he or she has not established this part of the business. Whether he or she has one will be obvious with the type of response you get, this will help you when making your final decision. Take caution to not push or embarrass the laboratory owner with this topic.
  4. Share educational goals and how they are agree with your overall vision and discuss how you can work together in this area. Ask if there is an open plan for the entire staff to further their education without hindering business; to improve and develop their relationship, business and technical skills.
  5. What are the laboratory’s continuing education goals and priorities? Ask the laboratory owner the qualities he or she desires most in a client. You should take note of the personality traits, emotions, type of work, practice style etc. If he or she could make changes and improve the quality of laboratory work being done, decrease stress, reduce remakes and increase profits, what would these changes be? Listen and Analyze.
  6. In conclusion, discuss the features you have discovered to share with each other and note any significant differences. This will be vital part of the meeting that will be critical to your joint decisions as a team.
  7. Before leaving find out if the laboratory owner has any questions or concerns that have not been discussed during the meeting and set up another time to discuss whether to proceed with the business partnership.

Taking Final Decisions

After gathering and analyzing information on your potential laboratory partner as stipulated above, it will interest you to know that you have out-done as much as 95% of your fellow dentists as only a handful have ever visited their existing or prospective laboratories for a reasonable amount of time. These numbers are even lesser for dental office staff team members.

You have been given the facts which will help you make informed choices and you will be comfortable knowing if your future business partner shares your business vision and philosophy. If a mutual agreement is not reached after all this process, time spent is not lost but you become experienced in the interview process and the next interview will be easier. On the other hand, if agreement is reached, then be sure you have the right laboratory for your practice.

Conclusion

Dental laboratory technician is one who is skilled in the creation and installation of dental fixtures and devices. Most of us want the best for our patients but we occupy ourselves with acquiring technical skills to reach our self improvement goals, failing to realize that establishing a relationship with a similar laboratory is important as well. More effort in the areas of leadership and communication is required to nourish and sustain laboratory relationships. Continuing education, mentoring and learning from experiences will enable involved parties reach their individual goals. You can make the decision and work towards the possibility of creating a practice that positively influence the lives of our patients.


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