Dental Business Processes 101. Ordering and Receiving Dental Laboratory Cases.


 When ordering [or sending out] dental laboratory cases, there needs to be an attention to all details with regards to the individual laboratory case.

Even though your dentist may appear to regularly order the SAME treatment or similar treatments for different patients, attention needs to be taken to ensure accuracy, for those times when the dentist does indeed deviate from his [perceived] regular well-worn path.

The Dental laboratory work sheet needs to have the following information conveyed:

  • Patient Name.
  • Tooth or teeth being treated.
  • Treatment required for those teeth [specifically].

These three are self-explanatory by definition.

  • Shade
  • Occlusal staining [if any].

[I’m not sure why anyone would want occlusal staining on their fissures of their crowns??]

  • Date that the laboratory work is due back in your office.

This date has nothing to do with the date of insertion that your patient has booked. This date is determined by the “turnaround time” that your laboratory takes to regularly complete this sort of work.

This is the date that your laboratory will have the patient job back at your practice.

This date should be the earliest it can be.

What we found was that when we put a later than usual date of return on our lab work sheet, our lab failed to begin our work until just before it was required by us…. What we found was that our lab delayed starting our work until as late as possible, despite being able to start it and finish it earlier.

Once we have this ETA date, then we can go ahead and schedule the patient’s next [issue] appointment with the knowledge that we have complete certainty that the crown/job will have arrived already.

And by the way, we should never schedule the patient for the same day that the lab job is due.

We need to create a “buffer” of time between the arrival of the lab job and the insertion or issue of the job.

The “buffer” is a blessing.

Without this “buffer” we are not so blessed.

At my dental office we used to allow a week  between the arrival of the laboratory job and the insertion appointment.

This allowed us some flexibility if for some reason the laboratory was going to deliver the job later than expected. [it was never a full week later].

It also gave us certainty that the laboratory job would definitely be back well before the day of the patient’s insertion appointment.

And in most instances, because the lab job did indeed arrive back earlier than the patient had been scheduled, it gave us an opportunity to call the patient and bring their insertion appointment forward to an earlier date, if an opening had indeed occurred in our schedule.

And we were always able to structure this scenario in such a way that the patient always felt we were giving them an “Above and Beyond” experience.

So here’s what would happen in the treatment room on the day of preparation and impression.

At the end of the appointment I would say:

“Mrs. Smith. Now this job will be off at the lab for three weeks, so we’ll organise a time now for you to have that crown seated in three weeks time. Now, if by chance the lab gets that job back to us a few days sooner than expected, would you like us to call you and bring that appointment forward if we have a change in our schedule?”

Most times the patient would say yes to the opportunity of coming in sooner.

This gave our practice the opportunity of creating a mini stand-by list of patients having crown insertions, just in case we needed someone to fill any last minute schedule changes.

So the phone call would go something like this:

“Hi Betty. It’s Jayne from Active Dental. You know how you asked me to call you if your crown came in from the lab earlier than we thought? Well guess what arrived in this morning’s mail?”

“I’ve had a change in Dr Moffet’s schedule for tomorrow and he can see you at 9:30am and we can get this crown put in then for you, if that time suits? How does that sound?”

This way we never disappointed patients when a crown was inadvertently delayed.

And it gave us many more opportunities to go “Above and Beyond” by getting the crown to the patient sooner than they had expected.


The process of receiving dental laboratory work in your office should be systematised and organised.

When dental laboratory work is received each day, it should be opened and each case being returned to your office should then be stored individually in its own separate and SAFE and LABELLED compartment  where it can remain safely until the day of insertion.

This means that for the visit of each patient requiring the seating of crown and bridgework, only their own work needs to be opened and out in their treatment room.

Separating different cases [belonging to different patients]that may arrive together in the mail, is the simplest and most effective method of avoiding the costly and embarrassing process of apologising for dental work that could have inadvertently been sent to the dump ahead of time.


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