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Partnering for Success

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 patients.

Benefits of Digital Impressions

  • Enhances dentist-technician communication
  • Reduces turnaround time
  • Increases precision
  • Minimizes remakes
  • Raises patient satisfaction
  • Improves efficiency

Advanced Materials

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.

State-of-the-Art Technology

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 near real-time.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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