In the first few months of my post-dental school practice, it seems like I have learned more than I learned in my first two years of dental school. Whether it has to do with dental insurances, treatment planning, or in this case, finding a good lab. In dental school, we never really questioned what lab we would send cases out to because we had no choices. Now the choices seem endless, which leads me to wonder, how do I pick the right lab(s), and what are the signs of a good dental laboratory?
From what I have picked up so far, you want to work with a dental lab that you can build a relationship with. I’ve seen the importance of this first hand when you’re doing that large aesthetic case for that really picky patient. Knowing your lab technician on a first name basis is only a start. I have had personal meetings with technicians who came out to our office to discuss cases one-on-one and I have even heard of other doctors taking their patients out to the actual dental lab so that technicians could get that spot on aesthetic assessment. I’ve seen how relationships between a dentist and a lab technician have spanned decades and the benefits of having that direct line whenever you need it.
You may have heard the saying “A dentist is only as good as their lab”, and it could not be more true. But I have found that not all dental labs are the same. Different labs have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some excel at fixed prosthodontics, while others are better with removable prosthodontics. And now more than ever, finding a lab that can help you restore implants is key! Granted they might all say they can do it all, it’s best to ask around before you send your cases out. Often, dental labs will offer dentist references that you can call and ask about their experience with that lab. Or in some cases, you’ll find out the hard way when you’re returned sub-par work on a case. Whether it’s the lab’s fault or the fault of the new dentist who may not have captured the perfect margin in that impression is beside the point.
Of course one of the biggest deciding factors on choosing a lab is often time and cost. Timing is essential these days, as patients want things faster. From same-day dentures to CAD/CAM chairside restorations, the pressure is on more than ever to do things fast. However, faster isn’t always better. So I have found that if time is a big factor, work with local labs that can turn a case around in a pinch. And if the cost is an issue, then shop around. Many labs offer introductory offers for new dentists that work with them. Also, many labs have incentive programs that reward you after doing a certain number of cases with them, think frequent flier miles, but with your lab. However, I’ve always been a firm believer that quality work is going to cost more. And while that’s not true in every case, consider the pros and cons of what cutting lab costs will do for your practice.
Working at multiple practices has exposed me to a variety of different labs. And while my time practicing has been short, you can almost instantly see the differences among them. I am sure that I will go through several on my quest to find the perfect dental labs to work with, but having the luxury of so many options gives me hope that I’ll find the rights one(s). Until then, I am always open to hearing about your experience with your lab. And who knows, you might convince me to work with them! Leave your comments or suggestions below.