I learned a very interesting statistic today: 68% of the time when a dentist switches laboratories it is because of inconsistent clinical results from their current lab. When I heard this, I wasn’t surprised as consistent, accurate clinical results are a must. We all need to know when we sit down to seat a restoration that the process will be predictable and the finished product excellent. A single forty-minute episode of adjusting in the occlusion on a crown ruins not just that day, but also the whole week. What I wondered about was the process that led to the dentist switching labs. Working with a new lab can be nerve-racking. It takes time to build confidence and get comfortable with the systems around simply sending work in and getting it back. I have also realized that consistent results build over time. The technician gets to know me, my preps, how I like the occlusal contact, and how tight to make the interproximals. So switching is no easy task.
Another question I asked myself when I heard this is “how they were defining consistent”? I know that from time to time I will get something back from my lab that doesn’t work as planned. My first response is to call the lab and see if we can figure out where our systems broke down. Once we have this identified it can be prevented in the future. If the work is generally inconsistent, I would still call the lab as my first line of defense. On my end, what can I do to help create consistency? Do I need to improve the quality of my impressions? Is there other information the technician needs to do great work? Do we simply need to have a conversation about expectations around esthetics, occlusion and interproximal contacts? The other side of this is to understand the lab’s systems. One of the challenges as laboratories have gotten larger is that you may or may not always have your work done by the same technician. Being able to get this, even by request, may mean higher lab fees or longer return times.
In the end we are all looking for the same thing: consistent, predictable results. The question is how do we achieve it, and how much time and energy do we invest to create it?