Laboratories have had to invest in new systems and materials in order to offer their dentist clients the latest products. This has come as a challenge for smaller laboratories who struggle with having the production levels of a large corporate lab.
Some of these small local labs have opted to join alliances with one another at a national level in order to remain competitive. The concern then is that the level of personal attention and service may differ from that of a smaller lab.
Big or small lab, it really boils down to what is most important to the dentist. Although there may be advantages and disadvantages to both, a few questions should be asked regardless the size of the laboratory.
1) Are the materials used genuine and ADA approved?
Everyone is trying to cut costs these days, which is even more reason to verify the authentication of the materials your lab is providing. This includes all components, especially implant parts.
A dentist might question how their competitor down the road can charge a third of what they are but they should also question how a lab can offer an implant restoration at such a low cost. This stands true for gold and PFM restorations as well.
With gold at an all time high, it’s hard to believe how labs can offer high noble/noble crowns at incredibly low prices. To assure you’re not receiving any substitute metals or a lesser alloy than prescribed, check for an Identalloy certificate with each case.
Make sure you are actually receiving what it is you are paying for. Any reputable lab would be happy to provide an authentication sticker for their products.
2) Is any of the work sent offshore?
Some labs send their work overseas to countries with low labor and production costs. This information may be disclosed to their dentist clients but many times it’s not.
Is there anything wrong with this?
Perhaps not, if they can prove that the materials are in compliance with the FDA and ADA laws like U.S. labs now do. Lead contamination has already been an issue with crowns, putting both dentist and patient’s health at risk.
An overseas' crown might cost a Lab $25, which they can then turn around and sell at a price less than their competitors, still making a nice profit. A crown made with quality craftsmanship and ADA materials is tough to find for under $200.
Once again, just be sure to ask where the work is being done at.
3) What is the quality control process with each case?
Quality is the differentiator between a good laboratory and a great laboratory. The number one reason dentists switch labs is due to inconsistent quality. Every lab should have a structured quality control checklist.
Of course a three-day turnaround time is wonderful, but when and how is the work thoroughly being checked? Although technology today has improved efficiency in labs, quality control still takes time at each stage in the fabrication process.
An entire day should be set aside for final checkout so that adjustments can be made if needed. Does the lab have a consistent team of technicians or do they employ subcontractors that come in at all hours of the day?
Every doctor’s expectations are different and every technician should be fully aware of what they are. Labs should have a system in place to track the feedback of each case. This way if a problem is occurring, it can be taken care of immediately.
A structured quality control system is beneficial for all sizes of laboratories.
4) Can I come and take a look at your lab?
If your lab is as top quality as they claim to be, they will gladly invite you in for a lab tour. Take a look at the cleanliness and professionalism of the establishment.
If you send patients to the lab for custom shade consults, keep in mind that their impression of the facility and how they are cared for while there is a direct reflection upon you. Look around at the neatness of the workbenches and case pans.
Is there stone all over the articulators and models? Are there empty pans sitting around on shelves, and if so where is the work being sent out to?
You can usually tell when a lab is certified and has certified technicians working for them because their achievements would be displayed just as most are in a dental office.
It is never a bad idea to know exactly who and what you’ll be working with.
5) Are there open lines of communication?
When it comes to dental restorations, It takes a team to provide patients with the best possible outcome. Although the lab work is done behind the scenes, they are still a big part of this team.
Communication is crucial when it comes to case success. It helps to have a good relationship with those working on your cases so that you fully understand each other’s expectations.
Do you have the ability to treatment plan cases with your technician or lab owners? Can you rely on your lab as a resource?
It’s difficult to stay abreast of the rapid changes in dentistry and can be nice to look to your lab for advice. Does your lab make sure you’re aware of the newest materials and latest advancements in technology?
Some labs offer so much more than just the fabrication of a crown, and most of the time the so much more has a lot to do with communication.
For more about Laboratory Restorative and Cosmetic Dentistry Services and Techniques,