Build a Lab Partnership, Build Your Practice

Author : Dental Product Shopper
Published Date 06/27/2010
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Do you ever wish you could go back in time to talk with a respected elder family member, mentor, or instructor for some down-to-earth advice? I may not have all the answers, but as a Certified Dental Technician with 39 years of experience, what I do have is a rich history of interaction with many different kinds of dental practices. I have seen that what works in many circumstances may not work in others. As with so many facets of your practice, it depends on relationships and partnerships.

Build a Lab Partnership, Build Your Practice

Do you ever wish you could go back in time to talk with a respected elder family member, mentor, or instructor for some down-to-earth advice? I may not have all the answers, but as a Certified Dental Technician with 39 years of experience, what I do have is a rich history of interaction with many different kinds of dental practices. I have seen that what works in many circumstances may not work in others. As with so many facets of your practice, it depends on relationships and partnerships.

Face Your Challenges with a Partner

Stop for a moment and think about all the challenges you are faced with every day. You?re operating a fully staffed practice with hopefully a filled schedule. Even though you may have an office manager on staff, in most instances you?re still the final decision maker. As you?re working with patients, somewhere in the back of your mind, you?re also juggling HR issues, collections, schedules, new treatment plans, new technologies and materials, new equipment, an array of procedures, referrals to and from specialists, sales representatives, your CPA, financials, your labs?the list goes on.

Let?s focus here on the world of technology, material science, and material applications. Each patient in your practice requires a unique treatment plan that includes challenges regarding the best technology and material choices for optimum patient care.

As you are looking at the overall treatment plan for a patient, your lab can be a real asset because of its expertise in specific material choices, operational protocols, and restoration options. Many lab technicians acquire 30 to 50 hours of continuing education per year, much of it focused on restoration choices and dental material sciences. Combining your knowledge of the patient?s oral health and expectations with the lab?s knowledge of materials and restorations can result in the best outcome for the patient.

Is Your Lab Part of Your Practice?

I work with many different practices. Some have used my knowledge and expertise to their best advantage? maximizing the benefit to their practice and patients. Others haven?t yet taken advantage of what our lab can offer, supplying very minimal upfront information (eg, ?patient #26579, shade A2, eMax Crowns 4-13?) and little feedback after the completion of a case.

For the practices with whom I?ve built a true partnership, the initial conversation about a case goes something like this: ?I?ve got a 42-year-old male coming in at 2:00. He?s getting ready to change careers and needs 4 single restorations?3-6. He has decent canine guidance, but he bruxes. He has a night guard, but I can?t guarantee he wears it enough. His radiographs look good but he?s a smoker and heavy coffee drinker. He needs something esthetically pleasing, due to his smile line, but durable. What are your recommendations for material choice and a feasible time frame for completion??

This 2- to 5-minute phone call has accomplished quite a lot.

1. The material choices have been narrowed to 2.

2. The supporting frame designs have already been selected.

3. I?ve begun thinking about the occlusal scheme.

4. Our ceramists know that when this case comes in we will need some modifiers and appropriate characterizations.

5. My office manager knows she has a special case coming in that involves 4 restorations and to inform our drivers of a pickup around 4:30.

So how did this dentist maximize his benefits from our lab? He added the lab into the equation of his personal expectations as well as his patient?s. My team is ready and knows what to expect. Everyone now feels like a personal participant in the success of 4 single units.

In addition to regular phone calls about planning for specific cases, the dentists with whom I?ve built a true partnership call often to talk about case outcomes, the economic trends in dentistry, and the latest news in technology. These calls have helped to build our practice/lab partnerships (see sidebar). Whenever these dentists have a case that requires shorter production times, we are able to accommodate them. If I see any of these dentists? patients personally and I can find a simple solution to a problem, I?ll often tell them it will be finished in a couple of days at no charge on our part.

These partner dentists and I have grown together and we mutually agree that the patient always comes first. Their patients are our patients because we feel like we?re part of the practice.

Maximize Your L ab, Benefit Your Practice

When you maximize the expertise of the lab or labs you?re currently working with, not only will you immediately start seeing a difference, you?ll find your staff offering input as well. In the end, your expectations and the expectations of your patients are no longer a surprise. Making a lab feel as if it?s a part of your practice will benefit everyone, especially your patients.

Lindy Sikes, CDT, President of Sikes Dental Studios, is a third-generation Certified Dental Technician. He is the past president of the North Carolina Dental Laboratory Association, the Southeastern Conference of Dental Laboratories, and the National Association of Dental Laboratories. He is currently the Chair of the Eastern Conference of Dental Laboratories and Trustee for the Dental Laboratory Technology Foundation.

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