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Dentistry Online wants to highlight the incredible hard work dental laboratories are doing up and down the country.
Unfortunately this year FMC was forced to cancel the Dental Laboratory Awards.
We’ve all seen the struggles many dental labs are going through. Some estimate redundancies could reach a quarter of the work force.
Because of this, we believe it’s more important than ever to highlight the important work dental laboratories are doing. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when dental technicians have become the forgotten team member.
That’s why we spoke to a few leading voices around the profession asking for their thoughts on the current situation, what great work dental labs are undertaking and look what their thoughts are for the future.
Dental Laboratory Association – President Steve Campbell
Since 23 March, when the first national lockdown came into force, the dental laboratory industry and the profession of dental technology has had to show great resilience and adaptability in order to both survive and provide a service to dental practices offering an NHS or private service during the pandemic.
There is no doubt that dental laboratories were abandoned during considerations for the survival and re-opening of NHS dentistry.
Despite the fact that dental laboratories across the UK provide over two million dental appliances for the NHS. And an equally significant proportion for private patients every year.
Some dental laboratories took on the challenge. They looked at adapting their manufacturing processes to respond to the national cry for PPE. Whilst others dedicated their teams to providing volunteer support for their local community.
However, all were gearing up for the re-opening of dental services when the request came.
The impact of a phased return to dental services, as well as the interpretation of the 20% NHS work guidance being seen as a cap rather than a minimum, has meant that many dental labs have closed. The result of this is hundreds of dental technicians and lab support workers becoming redundant.
We now widely recognise that the protocols and procedures within dental practices means dentists can see patients.
As such, it is now crucial that incumbent NHS dental practices start to use their dental laboratories to avoid further closures.
UK dental technology is on a cliff edge. It’s now in real danger of losing vital skills that are essential for dentistry.
Matt Everatt – technical director at award-winning lab – S4S Dental Laboratory
The UK dental laboratory landscape is a very different one this November in contrast to November 2019.
November for S4S is usually a time of year where we are constantly busy. Before preparing for a shorter month in December when we close down for Christmas.
We usually plan out Christmas parties and many will attend one of the dental professional awards ceremonies. Traditionally, the Dental Laboratory Awards are in November.
The Laboratory Awards is one of the events that I love, and having been winners in previous years. It is an event that we have attended many times.
The Laboratory Awards has been the event where we see hundreds of dental technicians come together to celebrate our amazing businesses. For one night we can rubs shoulders with our peers, friends and even our competitors.
It is an event that sadly will not go ahead this year. But we must not forget to celebrate our wonderful UK dental labs. Particularly as we are seeing so many struggle at this current time.
It has never been so important that UK dentists use UK laboratories. Just last month we saw several laboratories go into liquidation and cease trading.
Sadly, the COVID-19 lockdown in March was harsh with the total shutdown of UK dentistry.
The nail in the coffin for those labs that closed was no doubt due to the lack of NHS work available. This assumption is made as many laboratories that have flourished since the return to business in June are seeing increased levels of cases from private dental practices.
The good news is that dental technicians are resilient. The majority will survive. Many will take the time to invest in new technology and will invest in their teams.
So now is the time I would urge all UK dental practices to use UK dental labs.
Let’s get out of this mess together. And let’s give our patients the best dentistry the world has to offer.
Despite us not being able to attend The Laboratory Awards this year, let us celebrate our amazing dental technicians this November.
Award-winning lab owner – Luke Barnett
This year has not been a good year for any of us! However, dental laboratories have had a particularly tough time of it.
We were all in lockdown earlier in the year. But NHS restrictions and SOPs in regard to AGPs have meant that for many labs, it has not greatly improved since dental practices reopened in June.
The impact is devastating on many predominantly NHS labs and smaller laboratories with some simply going out of business.
A short life working group (SLWG) headed up by deputy CDO England, Jason Wong reported in September about the validity of the claim ‘there will be a dearth of dental practices on the high street in 18 months’ time’.
A number of dental stakeholders contributed to this report including the DLA, BDA, BDIA, BAPD, FGDP and NHS Business Services Authority.
There were nine overall recommendations. And three that related specifically to laboratories:
- A support package for dental laboratories that service NHS dental practices
- A government-guaranteed loan support scheme to underpin lenders confidence in supporting dental practices and dental laboratories at risk
- For the General Dental Council (GDC) to return the 20/21 Annual Retention Fee (ARF) for dental technicians.
We await to hear whether anybody will take these recommendations up.
‘Optimistic and upbeat’
At Luke Barnett we are busy again and supporting our clients in our amazing profession as we all work to find our way out of this pandemic.
Moving forward, I would like to be more optimistic and upbeat.
Dental laboratories and dentists make a great partnership and deliver the results that we all want – delighted patients.
Can I ask that dentists remember this when considering where to send their lab work?
Make sure that you send your work to a laboratory that you can have a conversation with and discuss any aspects of the case – this will lead to excellence.
Laboratory of the Year 2019 – Swift Dental Group
The dental industry has faced many challenges and experienced many changes since Swift Dental Group was established in 1984. However, none have impacted the industry we love more than the year of 2020.
The year began no different for the team at Swift than any other. Full of opportunities and aspirations and as March began, there was a sense of real excitement for the year ahead.
Then, like the rest of the country, we made the decision to close our doors due to the COVID crisis.
It was a moment of mixed emotions – relief for the safety of all our employees and customers, apprehension on ‘what would happen next’ and a sense of shock at the realisation of the current situation of this global pandemic.
However the team has accomplished some of the most inspiring achievements to date. We are delighted to have helped and supported many practices through this period and continue to do so.
Swift manufactured and donated over 3,500 free face visors – with the help of our 3D printer and our phenomenal staff who volunteered their time!
We raised over £10,500 and supported thousands of NHS frontline staff and other key workers.
Our phone lines remained open throughout the whole of this period. We thoroughly enjoyed running numerous awareness and engagement campaigns.
As we continue to navigate our way through this most unprecedented year, our commitment to the industry, our customers and our staff remains as integral to what we do as it did in 1984. Our objectives remain unchanged in providing a consistent quality product and an unrivalled service to all our valued customers and the customers we are yet to meet.