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The Consumer's Guide For Choosing a Dental Lab
When it comes to the quality of care a dentist offers and promises to their patients, picking the right dental lab plays a major role. Understanding what a dental lab does and setting a standard for the quality of work is crucial when choosing the right dental lab for your practice. After all, the level of care that a lab shows towards your patients will reflect on you, good or bad. Making sure that a lab is a good size and fit for you is extremely important.
Just like dental practices, dental labs come with different qualities, processes, levels of expertise, and have the ability to meet and exceed expectations. However, there are some whose processes will disappoint. There are labs that have solid quality control systems, scheduling systems, and communication systems, but many fall short in the department of organization, which leaves you and your patients unsatisfied with the work.
The good news is: understanding the dental industry will help you pick a quality dental lab for your practice. For example, slow turnaround time of lab work can look poorly on your reputation as a dentist (even though, it is not you doing the actual work), and vice versa for labs that are quick with their work and respond swiftly.
So, what are some things you should be looking for when choosing the right lab for your practice?
Here are 7 essential questions you should ask when looking for the right dental lab to
represent you and your practice.
1. Do You Use ADA-Approved Materials?
You don’t want to end up with a lab that is “cutting cost” by using some random guy on the corner who is making copies of another manufacturer’s alloy. Usually when something is made as a “knock off” for half the cost, it means that the quality will also be half of what you would expect.
To make sure you are getting quality alloy, request the IdentAlloy® sticker from the manufacturer, which should be applied to each one of your invoices to certify what type of alloy was used on each case.
When it comes to crowns, there are many different types of zirconia on the market. Make sure the lab you choose uses genuine material for their product. Contact your lab and find out if they have authorization to produce Captek™ crowns and are not advertising the production of “Captek” material. There is a big difference in the quality and you should be aware of whether or not your lab uses the real deal.
2. How Does the Lab Perform Quality Control Checks?
Take for instance the amount of time and work that goes into making a single porcelain-fused-to-metal crown: the model has to be poured, “Pindexed,” then a counter model is poured and mounted, die spacers are applied, dies are trimmed, wax-ups in a casting ring, which a technician will do more than once for each case and invest them all for overnight burnout. You must ask who is in charge of making sure this process is done correctly. Is there a check list? Is there a final inspection that makes sure the exact specifications are met?
Some labs may not have full-time employees, which means that knowing when these quality checks are performed could be questionable. A consistent team of technicians equals a consistent quality of work.
3. How Does the Lab Perform Quality Control Checks?
Many labs send work to Korea, China, and the Philippines because the cost of labor is low, and they will often do this without telling the dentist who is paying for their services. Most of these countries do not meet the FDA or ADA compliance laws, which insure that materials are safe for use. Contaminated crowns have been reported from offshore materials, such as lead-laced alloy and porcelain.
ADA-approved materials, with quality craftsmanship, will mostly likely cost more than $150. If your lab claims they can get materials for such low prices, odds are that they are sending the work overseas and passing it on as their own.
4. May I Inspect Your Lab?
Take the time to meet the office staff, know who you will be working with. If the lab you choose is filled with employees that you yourself would not hire, why allow them to be in charge of your lab work? Take a tour of the lab, is it a professional environment? Is the staff disheveled and messy? Are the work stations clean and neat? Do the technicians respect their tools and keep them clean? These are signs of how the lab will process your work, so make sure you take a look at how they work from the inside out.
5. Do You Have Resources for Continuing Education?
A dental lab should not only provide a dental practice with high-quality products and services, but it should also help its customers stay informed and up-to-date with dentistry techniques, processes, and advancements. When selecting the right dental lab, ensure that it has educational resources such as webinars, seminars, blogs and events that will grow your knowledge and practice.
Some dentists seem to forget that for effective dentistry to be performed, dental labs should be full practice partners to those requiring their service, and not just simple vendors supplying a product needed to complete treatment.
Dental labs provide a huge part in the dental treatment outcome. It is always better to find a lab that you can work with, not just send work to. Our lab provides expertise, personal service, and unparalleled quality. Finding a lab that fits with your practice can be challenging, but knowing what to look for before you choose is key. Make sure to ask the right questions and you will find a lab that will be a perfect match for you and your patient’s needs.
6. Do you use genuine manufacturer parts and hardware for implant restorations?
As with alloy, it is crucial that genuine implant manufacturer parts are used on your restorations, unless you request otherwise. There are many copycat implant manufacturers on the market today. Some make decent parts, while others are noticeably inferior. If you choose to use imitation parts, that is your prerogative. But if you ask for a genuine Nobel Biocare™ bridge and the lab uses a knockoff, which is a serious offense. The manufacturer’s warranty is voided, and you will be responsible for full charge on the remake. If the implant failed, the surgeon or periodontist will be responsible for the new implant. It is not uncommon for labs to use plastic imitation components and pass them off as genuine. Just as you might question the ethics and reliability of a competing dentist who charges one-third the fee of every other dentist in the area, you must question how a lab can offer any implant restoration at such a low cost. If you want to save money on parts, the way to do that legitimately is to get your own account, buy your own parts, and supply them to the lab to use. You may even be able to get a discount on the parts.
7. Talk to the owner and see if you get along
The key to the dentist/lab tech relationship is just that — it’s a relationship, not unlike a marriage. You are going to work together through thick and thin, so you must have a rapport with each other to be able to talk about anything without fear. The lab owner must be able to call and question a bite, a die, or any discrepancy in your impression or model without fear of an argument or losing you as an account. You must be able to suggest tighter or looser fits on crowns and question overall quality without fear of a fight. If you have an understanding, you will have many years of a great working relationship.
How to safely transition to a new dental lab
- Don’t send all your work in one shot. Send a few cases one at a time and build the relationship from that. Do not send failed cases from a previous lab. It is not fair for the new lab to be held accountable for another lab’s case, and even though you say you won’t, you will judge their work on this case.
- Feel each other out to make sure the owner knows what you want, and correct the lab when something is done wrong. You should have a foundation for a relationship between the fifth and tenth case.
- If this does not happen, you may not be compatible; maybe you are not meant to work together. If that is the case, leave on good terms. You never know … in a few years you may meet again and circumstances may have changed; this lab may be able to give you what you were looking for the first time.