Build a successful future with your dental laboratory
By Elaine Fediuk Bastin, Head of the Orthodontic Department at Sparkle Dental Labs
As we all know, the provision of quality dental care can only be successfully delivered through working as part of a skilled and dedicated team of professionals, and an effective dental laboratory is an essential part of any successful unit.
As such, thorough research should be completed when choosing which lab you will work with, as getting the choice wrong can have far-reaching consequences. This is particularly true for GDPs or Specialists in the field of orthodontics, as such appliances are crafted to very exact specifications.
A competent dental lab will possess a number of intrinsic qualities; all of which are necessary to ensure an effective relationship can be achieved and maintained, ultimately enabling the creation of consistently high quality products and the provision of effective patient care.
What to look for
The most important element to look for in a new potential lab partner, is the qualification of its employees. It is of course essential for technicians to have undergone the appropriate training and to demonstrate the skill necessary to produce orthodontic products of a high standard. Evidence of on-going training and qualifications is beneficial also to ascertain that the laboratory is completely up-to-date with the technical industry.
The materials used by the lab are possibly as important as the technicians’ qualifications. After all, just with sufficient knowledge and the best materials available on the market, you are likely to end up with a good final product.
Of course, no amount of external investigation will be enough to properly evaluate the quality and standard of a dental lab without visiting in person. You will be able to witness the company in operation and check that its protocols, with regards to infection control and quality assurance for example, align with those of your practice. By familiarising yourself with the lab’s routines and how it works, you will gain a better idea of turnaround times and how these would fit in with your practice’s scheduling.
These visits are also a great way to become acquainted with the lead technician in an informal setting, and you will have the opportunity to get to know their core values and their personality. Where it may be impractical to visit the lab in person due do locations, it would be advisable to schedule a telephone or Skype conversation instead. While geographical distance is not a huge problem thanks to modern technologies, selecting a UK-based laboratory, such as Sparkle Dental Labs, is still preferable in order to avoid the greater number of variables and therefore risks associated with outsourcing work overseas.
Closer proximity to the lab also encourages easier communications, which will become integral to the success of your relationship. The specifications you send to your laboratory will be personal to you – every dentist works in a slightly different way and it is essential that the technicians you work with understand what you want. More technical discussions regarding this can take place at a later date once you have decided that the two businesses are compatible.
Maintaining the relationship
As with any business venture, commencing with a short trial period will offer you the chance to assess if the partnership is mutually beneficial. Sending only one or two jobs at first will ensure that the work returned meets your standards and that your instructions are adequately understood. It’s also good practice to call the lab following the first order to offer more in-depth explanation where necessary.
Moving forward, the relationship between practice and lab goes much deeper than a simple business arrangement. Effective communication remains at the heart of its success and interaction should go beyond just the standard form filling. For example, I provide my clients with a personal mobile number so that they can reach me at any time. One significant benefit to this is that the dentist can send me photographs of complicated cases by text message, even when still chairside with the patient, and ask for my opinion. This in turn helps me because I know in advance what the dentist wants before the impression has even arrived, enabling the dentist and I to plan ahead and so ensure that we always meet the patient’s expectations.
A bright future
Looking to the future, I think that the lab technician’s workload will become almost entirely digitalised over the next few years. We currently experience quite a few problems with the quality of the impressions sent through to us, and although we’re always more than happy to offer feedback to help improve them, I believe a change in the way we communicate with address this. I foresee dentists sending the intraoral scan directly to the lab in the not too distant future, so that we have all the information we need to create more accurate orthodontic appliances at lower costs to the dentist. These are truly very exciting times in dentistry and I for one am really looking forward to the next few years.