The Dental Lab Expert – the time-saving lab tech hero

Ashley Byrne on time saving

This month, Ashely Byrne explains how dental lab technicians and their teams can help to combat the time crisis that is developing in dentistry.

As I glanced at the pile of boxes arriving from the post man, one box caught my eye. On the outside of my lovely environmentally friendly shipping packs was the lab instructions: ‘Darren Smith, 18/11/1952 would like an implant bridge upper 2-2, photos to follow.’ (Identity changed)

There it was, clear as day, a name, DOB, and instructions, but not on a lab ticket, not even a compliment slip privately enclosed in the box. In 17 years, including pre-GDPR, that’s a first for me.

Poor instructions, lack of photos, and lack of any information has always been a problem for dental labs. But recently, things seem to have a taken a dive for the worse and I know it’s not just at my lab.

My customer support team spend hours each day chasing this information and it’s snowballing. Rushed tickets, rushed images, poor shades (if any shade at all), and a serious lack of prescriptions is just becoming too common. Just writing ‘call me’ does not a prescription make!

The trouble with time

First let me clarify, I am not knocking dentists or practices. This is an article about understanding practices and dentists, and seeing how we can help through a partnership.

I’ve piped on for years about the ageing and depleting technician work force but the shortage isn’t just limited to dental technicians. We also have dental nurses at an all-time low, there is a lack of dentists to satisfy demand, and if you combine this with NHS dentistry dwindling away, the subsequent growth in the private sector is unprecedented.

I don’t know a single dentist who isn’t busy, and if they can’t find a good clinical support team then time, or should I say lack of, is becoming the biggest hurdle in running a practice. Too many patients, many of whom are increasingly demanding, and there simply isn’t enough clinical time in the day to get through them all.

Stress levels are running high and the space between appointments is getting tighter and tighter. Consequently, lab tickets are being written in a rush, information is poor, scribbled on the back of comp slips, napkins and, in extreme cases, on the outside of delivery boxes.

It’s both a fantastic time to be a dentist and an extremely challenging one. This is now the time for lab tech teams to step up and be the hero time savers.

Lab tech heroes

My team would be the first to point out the difficulty of so little information being provided, but they can also see the opportunity available to us. I’ve said before in many of my articles that simply making good quality false teeth is no longer enough for us to thrive as an industry. We need to be high end service providers, and this goes vastly deeper than just delivering a great result technically.

Operations teams within the laboratory now have a responsibility to work closer than ever with the practice teams, to help them run smoothly and easily, with a variety of ways to assist.

From estimates and treatment planning, through to courier tracking and working with appointments, we have to ensure we make the clinic life as easy as possible. Of course, many of us do this already, but the time has to come to truly reinvent the dental technician and the level of services we offer.

Restorative dentistry and treatment planning has generally been run by the dentist. But under severe time pressures and speed of material and product developments, our side of the industry is evolving. It’s nearly impossible for a dentist and clinical team to keep up on their own.

Taking advice and treatment planning further

Advice and treatment planning is becoming a major part of what we do, but should we be taking this further? Through years of experience and working with hundreds of different clinicians and practices, dental technicians can see the most time efficient way to restore patients through established protocols, with reliable long term successful results, and improved patient satisfaction at all levels.

Those three factors are key to making a practice successful and the dental technician is pivotal in that partnership. Our strength, respect, and trust in the dental team has never been greater.

In simple terms, we need to make the restorative dentistry process as easy as possible for both the clinician and the practice support team. I consider it almost like a recipe book for restorative dentistry. My advice for my dentists these days is to follow our recipe book, use our lab platform to help your team run your practice, work with us as a partnership and you will save time, improve patients satisfaction and run a more profitable practice with less stress.

We can all do this and now it’s time for us to step up to the plate and be the superhero of restorative dentistry.

Catch up with previous columns from the Dental Lab Expert:

Follow on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar