How’s Your Dental Lab?

With dental lab expenses in a dental practice ranging from 5% to 15% of the practice gross income, I thought this was a good time to share an anecdotal experience I had this week..

I had an interesting phone chat yesterday with a marketer who had sought me out for an opinion. The contact had initially been made a couple of weeks earlier   through a first level contact of mine on LinkedIn. It was all handled professionally, a time was sought and arranged and the call was very amicable.

The line of enquiry from the marketer went something like this: he had a client who owned a dental laboratory in Brisbane who was interested in setting up a dental lab in Sydney, so was seeking my opinions and comments on various factors in the Sydney dental market in general.

The questioning was polite and thorough. I was impressed with the marketer’s lines of questioning, as well as his attention to details of my comments, and his crosschecking and referring back to comments I had made.

What came out of this interview, for me, was very, very interesting….

  1. I personally use five dental labs to cover all my dental laboratory options.
  2. I have been a very loyal client to these labs.
  3. I pretty well chose all of these labs by referral after my own inquiries. That is, I asked fellow colleagues for recommendations.
  4. Price is not a factor. I don’t know what my labs charge. I like their work.
  5. I don’t really have a handle on the Sydney dental market for labs. I’m not interested in seeing what else is out there. I’m not in the market to change.

So lets look at the laboratories I use

  1. My local dental lab. Crown and bridge. All Dentures. Mouthguards. I’ve been a client on and off of theirs for over twenty years. They do great “pop in” post and cores, and great dentures. We have a good working relationship, and they certainly scratch my back, so to speak….
  2. My ceramic guy. The high-end smile enhancement, cosmetic guy. Beautiful smiles are created in his hands.
  3. My local ortho lab. Makes my functional appliances, my passive retainers.
  4. An interstate lab for functional TMJ appliances. Great work, good turnaround and attention to customer needs.
  5. An overseas crown and bridge lab for posterior crowns. This lab has been a revelation. I have used them for say 15 years, at least. Their products are better than most locally made, and at a fraction of the cost. This lab has turned the dental laboratory market in Australia on its ear. I’ve visited their overseas site, and am impressed with their cleanliness, quality control and tracking. In fact I’m so impressed, that I have one of their crowns in my own mouth, as well as the mouths of my father, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law.

So what do all these labs have in common?

  1. High quality low defect work. There is rarely a poor fit or problem.
  2. Prompt early delivery of their work. Allowing our practice to “look good” to our clients. It’s impressive to be contacting the patients and bringing their appointments forward. Makes us look good to the patient.
  3. On the rare occasions there is an adjustment, or a remake, it’s done promptly, no fuss, no blame. But like I said, these instances are rare.
  4. The labs love our business, and they love business. They have great staff members who are great with customer service!

So where have been the failings of other labs I used?

  1. Dropping the ball. Now, firstly, let me tell you that I’ve left one of these labs I just mentioned above, in the past, but I came back. One part of their service deteriorated…I changed lab. They lifted their game…and I came back.
  2. Poor quality. Errors in work, with no acceptance of accountability. This would be the biggest cause for change.
  3. Failure to deliver on time. I don’t care how good the work, if they can’t get it there on time; it makes our office look bad to the patient.
  4. Personal reasons. I’ve had labs drop the punctuality ball due to their distraction for  personal reasons, and this is hard…. but business is business. Don’t mix the time for business, and the time for play.
  5. A great dental technician leaves and is replaced with an ordinary one. Not so much a concern in small local operations, but if a different ceramicist does your work…you know the change.

In summary, good quality labs that respect dentist’s time, deliver and pick up promptly, and look at the big picture when it’s needed; these are the labs that stick around long term….and if you’re going to be around long term yourself, then these are the labs you need…

After all, dentistry is a business….

What are your experiences with dental laboratories? Leave your feedback below…

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