Finding the spark to your partnership

In order to provide the best possible orthodontic service to all your patients, it is important that you have the best team of professionals behind you. From your dental nurse or assistant to your laboratory, close collaboration and effective communication is often key to treatment success.

As such, when it comes to choosing a lab partner, you need to do your research. This is particularly true for general dental professionals (GDPs) or specialists in the field of orthodontics, as appliances are crafted to very exact specifications.

What’s important?

The two most important elements to look for in a laboratory are qualifications of the technicians, and the materials they use. With sufficient knowledge and skill, coupled with the best materials available on the market, you are already more likely to end up with a good final product.

A visit to the laboratory is also advisable when making your decision. You will be able to witness the company in operation and check that its protocols, with regards to infection control and quality assurance for example, align with those of your practice. By familiarising yourself with the lab’s routines and how it works, you will gain a better idea of turnaround times and how these would fit in with your practice’s scheduling.  

These visits are also a great way to become acquainted with the lead technician in an informal setting, and you will have the opportunity to get to know their personality and make sure that an effective working relationship is possible. The specifications you send to your laboratory will be personal to you, so it is essential that you can communicate with your technician what exactly it is that you want.

Location matters

While geographical distance is not a huge problem thanks to modern technologies, selecting a UK-based laboratory, such as Sparkle Dental Labs, is still preferable in order to avoid the greater number of variables and therefore risks associated with outsourcing work overseas.

I would also recommend sending one or two jobs to the laboratory before finalising your decision so that the quality of work returned can be assessed. 

Exciting times

Moving forward, the relationship between practice and lab goes much deeper than a simple business arrangement. Effective communication remains at the heart of its success and interaction should go beyond just the standard form filling. I, for example, provide a mobile phone number so that dentists I work with can send photographs by text message for any advice they may need.

Looking to the future, I believe that the lab technician’s workload will become almost entirely digitalised over the next few years. The issues we currently experience with quality of impressions received, may be reduced as dentists start to send the intraoral scan image directly to their lab – enabling the creation of more accurate appliances at a lower cost to them. These are truly very exciting times in dentistry and I for one am really looking forward to the next few years.

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