The dental lab industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% from 2021 to 2028. Despite these strong projections, the number of dental laboratories decreased 1.5% from 2021.
The reason for the decline in the number of physical dental labs is twofold:
- Many lab owners are retiring as the Boomer generation ages out without suitable replacement.
- An increase in out-of-country outsourcing.
With these trends likely to continue, it seems there is an obvious predicament emerging for dentists. You will need a dental lab to handle increased demand, or to replace your lab and they are becoming harder to find. With this in mind, there are some important things to consider when choosing a new dental lab.
Is Work Designed and Manufactured In-House?
Perhaps the most important question when searching for a new dental lab. This seemingly obvious standard is the root cause for many delays, miscommunications, and remakes.
Modern dental lab equipment is expensive. Depending on the size and capability of the lab, outsourcing may be the best financial option. If your lab does outsource, be sure it is to a dental lab that is relatively local.
Anytime you can cut out the middleman you create a more efficient workflow. The most common item that is outsourced are zirconia crowns. Unfortunately, the best financial option to outsource crown and bridge is to send out of the United States. Many dental labs in China offer a per unit cost of roughly $20. This may be enticing for lab owners who have not invested in mills, design software, digital scanners and sintering ovens but often means weeks of turnaround time while your impressions fly across the world.
Ensuring you are working with the lab and lab tech who designs and manufactures your cases leads right into the next important factor when choosing a new dental lab.
Can You Communicate With the Dental Lab Easily?
Occasionally there are cases that require special instruction or a quick chat about best practice. In these cases, you’ll want to be able to speak with a knowledgeable staff. More importantly, you will want to make sure that your concerns are listened to and applied.
The chain of command in a dental lab is usually straight forward. Typically, there are a handful of lab techs who handle one or two aspects of the process before being passed on to another dental lab tech who continues the lab workflow. When cases are handed off between multiple people, miscommunications happen and mistakes are made.
Utica Dental Lab boasts an accomplished staff with centuries worth of combined experience. Even better, you can speak directly to your lab tech involved or the dental lab manager who is familiar with and oversees each aspect of your case. Communication is key when creating a perfectly fitting prosthesis. We are glad to adjust our process to accommodate you.
Can the Dental Lab Deliver a Consistent Product?
There is a common misconception that a dentist must choose between consistent, quality products or fast turnaround times. While it may be true that high end boutique dental labs may require more time (and charge higher prices), most dental labs are capable of replicating results in a manageable time frame.
Usually, turnaround times rely on the lab’s ability to organize and manage a workload and whether any of the work is outsourced. Once again, outsourcing work forces a lab to bend to the will of another’s ability which is out of their control.
Does your dental lab have a set turnaround schedule available for you to view and explore? It’s always a good question to ask. As a dentist it is important that you can reliably relay turnaround time information to your patients.
Of course, nobody is perfect, and mistakes do happen. When mistakes take place, who is the one who catches it? Ideally, your lab will uncover the mistake before the crown or denture ever makes it out the door.
Who Handles Dental Lab Quality Control?
Does your dental lab have a quality control? Does anybody check over the work to ensure the product is up to the standard? If there is an error, is there time to fix or remake the product before the return date? When a dental prosthesis fails quality control, will your office be notified?
You may be noticing a theme here. The four most important aspects to look for in a lab all go hand in hand. Strong communication and organization. Control as many variables as possible. Know who is responsible for the work a that is being done and how to best contact them.
Can You Visit Your Dental Lab?
More for transparency’s sake than anything. Utica Dental Lab is located in Utica, NY. We locally serve the greater Utica, Syracuse, and Herkimer areas with daily delivery. We also guarantee two-day shipping across the United States.
We are happy to have any of our clients visit us. There is often much to be learned for dentists young and old. Lab procedures and technology have changed substantially over the past 5-10 years. We’re always happy to give you a tour and help you learn the ropes if it means a better understanding and a better product.
Does a lab that allows for visits guarantee a good experience? No, it does not. But it’s nice to know you can at least take a look at some of the basics before making a commitment.