For many clinicians, the monthly bill from the dental lab is their second largest expense. Building an excellent working relationship with a dental lab is essential to running your dental office smoothly and efficiently. Poor communication results in numerous remakes, increased chairside, avoidable expenses and dissatisfied patients.
Choosing the Right Dental Lab
The most essential step to strong effective communication with your dental lab is to choose the right lab for your needs. It will often not be practical to visit the dental lab in person, but there are other ways to choose a lab that will work with you to achieve the best clinical outcome for every case. Verify that the lab is appropriately certified. Ideally, it is a member of the National Association of Dental Laboratories, which ensures that you always receive a certain standard of service and dental appliance. It will also be critical to confirm that the lab only uses FDA approved materials and that they have certified and experienced dental technicians available for case planning.
Obtaining Advice about Materials and Techniques
Ideally, your chosen dental lab should provide the most advanced materials and its technicians should be trained in the latest techniques. The best labs have invested substantially in the most up-to-date technology. A busy clinician isn’t expected to understand every material fully; a good dental lab provides invaluable information, resources & advice. If you aren’t sure which material is most appropriate for a case, then you should be able to contact the dental lab. When you aren’t familiar with the materials, they can advise you on the proper prep and cementation requirements and will provide guidance about which materials are best used for specific cases. Some dental labs offer CE classes or training events, where you can learn more about the most advanced materials and techniques. Matching the patient to the right materials is a critical factor in eliminating errors and ensuring that a restoration fits correctly.
Ensuring that the Dental Lab Has All the Information Required
It is essential for clinicians to fill out RX forms correctly and in their entirety, taking care to include all detailed information about the case. Specify which material is to be used, the shade and stump shade, proper bite registration, and any photos and additional information about the patient. It can be beneficial to give background information about the patient, including their age, lifestyle, and what they like and dislike about their current teeth. All these factors can influence the design of a case. The more complicated the case, the greater the need for excellent communication the more information, the better. When packaging the case, everything should be correctly labeled, so the dental lab can check that they have everything required. This decreases the risk of case issues and prevents potential delays in processing times.
Decent dental labs have a set procedure when receiving cases from dental offices. It’s important to know what happens when the lab receives a dental impression and how it is assessed. For example, a dental lab that uses a scoring system to evaluate the quality of an impression will make it far easier for you to understand when and why it’s necessary to retake an impression, scoring systems will help you eliminate errors and remakes in the future. A lab that provides useful feedback about the quality of your dental impressions will help you achieve the very best clinical outcome producing well-fitting restorations that require less chairside time and result in happier, more satisfied patients.
Keeping in Touch with Your Dental Lab
Ongoing collaboration with your dental lab is vital for a long-term relationship, so it’s beneficial to have a dedicated account manager, assigned to your office. An account manager can help with any case queries and can assist when planning more complex restorative cases. They will learn your preferences for dental appliance design and manufacture. Knowing whom to contact when you have instructions or patient information can significantly benefit the clinical outcome of the case and, of course, it saves valuable time.
Inevitably, there will be instances when your dental lab needs to resolve a query about a case some dentists assign these communications to their dental assistants or front office staff. While this might be fine for a simple query, front office staff may be unable to read a chart and provide the information required, which delays the progress of a case. Ideally, clinicians would deal with any queries from the dental lab directly, especially for more complicated cases when this isn’t possible, it’s critical to educate your staff members on the basics of how to read a chart.
Utilizing Technology Provided by Your Dental Lab
More dental labs are providing online portals that use the latest digital technology to improve communication between the dental lab and the clinician. These portals can handle every aspect of the case, from its submission to charting its progress, and will tell you exactly when to expect final delivery. The ability to submit a case online can help enormously to eliminate communication errors resulting from difficult-to-read handwriting.
If you do have a case that needs to be remade, contact the dental lab immediately to see if they have advice that can resolve the problem straight away. With any remake, it is crucial to figure out what the error is to avoid the same mistakes. It’s always worth checking the fit of the appliance on the model to see how it corresponds with the fit in the mouth and to determine if a new impression is needed while the patient is still in the chair. Many times, even a small discrepancy in the impression can affect the fit of the restoration. When returning the case, send everything back, so the dental lab can analyze the cause of the problem, and prevent it from happening again in the future.
Ongoing communication and feedback are essential in helping your dental lab improve the quality of the appliances they produce for your practice. Close collaboration will help everybody achieve excellent results, improve patient satisfaction and significantly increase the chance that the patient will recommend your practice to others.
Please be reminded that should you wish to discuss a case in more detail, our experienced technical team is here to assist you.