Partnering for Success
THE NEXT DDS
One of the keys to a successful dental practice is a
positive relationship with a high-quality dental laboratory—one that provides
timely, precise restorations using quality biomaterials. The dental laboratory
is no longer just a place to send impressions (digital or conventional) for
restoration fabrication. The dentist-laboratory relationship has evolved— materials
and technology have advanced and a spirit of collaboration has been sparked.
Working synergistically with your laboratory technician as a
restorative design partner will result in prosthetic solutions for your
patients and improved treatment outcomes. Together you can decide on
appropriate materials, application, and definitive restoration for your
Benefits of Digital Impressions
- Enhances dentist-technician communication
- Reduces turnaround time
- Increases precision
- Minimizes remakes
- Raises patient satisfaction
- Improves efficiency
Feldspathic porcelains, porcelain-fused to metal, and
full-gold were once the only material choices for restorations. Today, dental
professionals can choose from lithium disilicate, monolithic zirconia, hybrid ceramics,
and even more milled, printed, and pressable options.
These materials are in different stages of acceptance, and
new solutions continue to be developed and researched. It is your laboratory
technician’s job to stay abreast of the research, making him or her an invaluable
resource in this area.
Digital imaging is revolutionizing dentistry. Dentists can
review images before sending them to the laboratory and retake them when
necessary while the patient is still in the chair. If the lab technician has questions
about an image, he or she can call the prescribing dentist to discuss it in
Dental CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing)
technology is reducing turnaround time and improving the precision of
restorations, helping dentists meet increasing consumer demand. Using specialized
computer software and a 3D image of the teeth taken with an optical scanner (or
by scanning a traditional model made from an impression), a technician can
design a restoration within minutes.
When the design is finalized, the restoration is milled from
a single block of ceramic material in a milling chamber. It can then be custom
stained and glazed to create customized aesthetics, finished, and polished. Because
digital scanning minimizes margin discrepancies, fewer remakes are required or
adjustments needed at the time of placement.
Choosing The Right Dental Laboratory
Dental laboratories vary considerably on services provided,
quality, size and capacity, approach, and fees. The top three features dentists
judge a laboratory on are: 1) quality, 2) efficient communication, and 3) reasonable
prices. But how can a dentist be sure that a lab produces high-quality work or
that prices are fair?
According to the National Association of Dental
Laboratories, most states do not regulate or set standards for dental
laboratories or require licensure for technicians. Laboratories can voluntarily
seek certification through the National Board for Certification in Dental
Laboratory Technology (NBC) or seek accreditation in DAMAS—a quality assurance
system that mirrors ISO and FDA Good Manufacturing Practice specifications. NBC
also certifies dental technicians.
The National Association of Dental Laboratories reports that
today as many as 40 percent of restorations are made overseas in countries such
as China, India, and Vietnam. These laboratories must register with, but are in
no way regulated by, the FDA. More than 40 countries have registered
laboratories with the FDA. Products from these laboratories may be cheaper, but
turnaround time is certainly lengthy and the purity of materials used has been
questioned. Traces of lead have been reported in some imported restorations.
Building and nurturing a relationship with a reputable
dental lab can save a dentist both time and money. It can also help a practice
owner gain a competitive marketing edge. The key is finding a reliable dental laboratory—one
that holds the patients’ best interests above all else. Look for partners who
communicate effectively and who will help solve even challenging cases. The
baby boomer generation continues to grow in number and live longer, thereby
presumably increasing the number of complex cases you will see in your chair in
the coming years.