Lab in the Limelight – CW Dentures

In the first of a new series, this month’s Lab in the Limelight is CW Dentures! We spoke to lab owner Chris Wibberley about his biggest challenges so far and his top tips for a successful laboratory.

Please introduce yourself

Hi, I am Chris, the lead clinical dental technician and owner of CW Dentures.

CW Dentures is a privately run denture clinic in Delph, Saddleworth. We make dentures for both our own patients and for other dentists across the UK.

Alongside our clinic, we have a fully functioning lab on-site where our dentures are made. My team and I provide a prosthetic lab service for clients all over the UK.

I also provide training courses for other dental technicians who are looking to improve their skills and knowledge on removable prostheses.

How and when your lab was created?

After working in my father’s lab for 10 years, I decided to take on the challenge of opening my own denture clinic. I had always wanted to run my own business and was fortunate enough to set up my small clinic in July 2016, just after my son was born.

After approximately three years of hard work and many mistakes, my social media posts started to gain some interest from other dental professionals.

Several dentists asked if I provided a laboratory service, which at the time wasn’t my intention. But I said yes.

Now, I have a highly skilled team of six at CW Dentures who provide high-quality fixed and removable prostheses for dentists all over the UK.

How has the business grown since then?

The business has grown quickly since opening. When we first started there was only myself; I did all the work from seeing patients, making dentures and general business management.

As we have become busier, the workload has become too much for one person and new team members have joined. We now have two dental technicians, one trainee dental technician, a managing director, a treatment co-ordinator and a finance and marketing co-ordinator.

This has been extremely helpful in allowing individuals to specialise in certain areas to provide a better service to our patients, better manage their workload and help increase the business profile to bring in more patients.

What renovations/additions/changes have you made to your lab and why?

We are currently renovating both our lab and clinic. We have gone from having both our clinic and lab in the same premises to splitting them into two separate ones.

In addition, we are in the process of expanding our reception and treatment area to make it more accessible and have also created an additional treatment room.

As we became busier with work both internally and externally, we needed more space and more dental technicians to meet our increased workload.

Our previous lab and clinic were inadequate; our lab had limited space for multiple technicians. There was not enough shelf space for our increasing workload and our treatment room was small, making it hard to access in a wheelchair.

We thus decided to move our whole lab to a bigger premises upstairs. The bigger unit space has allowed us to better organise our increasing workload and has helped us improve the customer experience.

As a result, now our dentures can be made at the same time as seeing patients, reducing patient wait time and improving our clinic atmosphere.

What type of work does your laboratory carry out?

The lab work we primarily carry out at CW Dentures is removable prosthetics.

We have recently expanded our lab’s capability to offer sports mouth guards, whitening trays, and Essix retainer trays. We can create these for patients and other dentists.

Our work is exclusively private, however we have very competitive rates that suit various price points.

What kind of high-tech equipment/technology do you use at the lab?

We have recently invested in digital equipment, so that we can receive STL files and print digital models in-house. This has made big improvements in our turn-around times and we have been able to manufacture cases with an extremely high degree of accuracy.

What have been the biggest challenges in establishing and running the business?

Going from a one-man business to a multi-disciplinary team has brought some of my biggest challenges.

I’m very fortunate to have a team who are passionate and always willing to learn, but letting go of certain responsibilities and trusting others to complete those tasks took some getting used to.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

There are many aspects of the job that I really like and they are all different.

The face-to-face time with patients and seeing a case through from start to finish with them can be very rewarding.

What are the future aims of your lab?

In the future we aim to expand our digital department. We are currently seeking out what equipment and software are best suited to CW Dentures’ services.

I personally aim to provide more training courses for other technicians. I am currently writing some courses with the team at Schottlander in order to provide training on aesthetic tooth arrangements and denture aesthetics.

These courses will be launched in early 2023.

Where do you see dental technology going in the next decade or so?

It’s no secret that digital design and processing is making headway within dental technology. I think lab processes like this will be the norm and analogue lab processes will be become less of a requirement.

I believe aspects of digital design and diagnostics will be further improved by advances in augmented reality (the same technology that provides filters for apps like snapchat).

This technology is already used in certain clinical and educational aspects of dentistry.

What are your top tips for maintaining a successful laboratory?

Good communication is essential to ensure the successful running of your lab. We have weekly team meetings to discuss business changes and problem areas, ensuring everyone is updated and knows what is expected of them.

Also, we understand how working in a lab can be very busy and thus information is not always best communicated verbally. We have an online actions list detailing staff to do lists and deadline dates. This makes sure no one forgets important information and ensures better management of tasks.

Being organised is also crucial for success as a lab. Without organisation, jobs and deadlines could be missed resulting in unhappy patients.

To help us stay better organised we have a 30-minute brief at the beginning of each workday to make sure everyone knows what works needs completing that day. We delegate work across our technicians to ensure work is completed on time.

As we send work across the UK it is crucial we stay organised so work returns on time. We create a deadline for work to be completed at least three days before the dentists have stipulated. This allows time for postage and avoids delays. This has made us more efficient and helped us take on more work.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Both myself and my team are looking forward to what the future brings for the lab and clinic.

It’s been a tough, but very rewarding, six years.

The business has been through many changes and I’m beyond grateful for the amazing team I have.

Without my staff, CW Dentures would not have its strong reputation for quality and service. I can’t wait to expand this already amazing group of professionals.

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