Is There a Better Way to Select Dental Laboratories?
Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
Someone once said, “Behind every great smile is a great dentist.” The author believes that statement is true, but have you ever considered what is behind a great dentist? Is it a proper business system? Yes--is it a great relationship with a dental laboratory? Yes--behind every great dentist is a great dental laboratory.
For more than 16 years, the Levin Group accumulated data to develop “best models” of how to efficiently operate dental practices while maximizing productivity and profitability. Creation of these best models has revealed that one area of productivity often overlooked is the dental laboratory. Although some dentists may remember selecting a laboratory with which to establish a relationship, most do not. These clinicians just continue shipping cases and hoping for the desired results.
Although the majority of clinicians are satisfied with the relationship they have built with their selected dental laboratory, additional opportunities may be available to improve the laboratory process. With proper selection, laboratories can provide guidance, knowledge, accessibility, honesty, and quality laboratory results.
The Dental Laboratory as Your Guide
Approximately 68% of all dentists work in an independently owned practice, and the vast majority of the remaining practitioners work in two-doctor partnerships. This means that most dentists work alone, without the benefit of an additional resource to help and guide them with their cases.
This prototype has functioned well, given that most dentists perform commonly encountered procedures (eg, crowns, bridges, dentures). There are instances, however, when it is beneficial to pick up the phone and receive proper guidance. This is why it is important for clinicians to establish a relationship with a technician who provides the best laboratory results possible and has the expertise to provide guidance through the most advanced and modern techniques available.
Finding Knowledge in the Dental Laboratory
There is no question that knowledge is extremely important in dentistry, particularly since the industry is constantly evolving. Knowledge, however, can be expensive. Dentists simply cannot attend every course offered on dental procedures.
The dental laboratory is always available as a reliable source of knowledge. Dental laboratories encounter issues and failures on a regular basis that may take the average dental professional years to experience. Laboratories should, therefore, be willing to provide advice on a particular restorative approach at any time.
How Accessible is Your Dental Laboratory?
Another consideration when selecting a dental laboratory is its accessibility. Dental laboratories often view themselves only as technical centers. The clinician’s goal is to find a dental laboratory that views itself as a partner as well. A reliable laboratory will have personnel to answer the phone regularly and have time to discuss any concerns the clinician may have. While dental laboratories do not have to have customer service agents sitting by the phone at all times, they certainly should provide such assistance is needed.
Why is Honesty Important?
It was once said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Honesty is an important element of a dentist’s education. Many laboratories, however, allow a dentist to continue using unnecessary techniques that may hinder success. Although it is not typical for laboratory professionals to call dentists to inform them that they are not doing their jobs properly, they should.
Dental laboratories need to be straightforward with dentists. In order to continue building knowledge, a clinician should request that the laboratory alert him or her about the best ways to enhance his or her techniques for improved patient care. A dental laboratory with a broad scope of services and experience should be carefully selected to properly educate each professional.
Remember that guidance, knowledge, accessibility, and honesty are primary factors to be considered when selecting a dental laboratory. Once these parameters are addressed, a successful restorative team can be build to ensure predictable success. The dental laboratory plays an important role in the success of any practice, and is truly the practitioner’s partner in dentistry.
*Founder and CEO, Levin Group, Baltimore, Maryland.