By: Mustafa Shah-Khan, DDS
When you’re looking for a dental lab to address prosthetic needs, there are a few things that you should examine. The first decision is what kind of lab you need. Do you need a fixed , removable , implant lab, or a full-service lab that can address all of your needs?
Most dentists have a need for a fixed and implant lab. Many times, we see skilled fixed and implant technicians who are unwilling to do removable prosthetics. This leads to dentists having separate fixed and removable labs. Alternatively, you can choose a full-service lab that can handle both needs so that you only deal with one entity for your prosthetic needs.
The second decision we face is cost. This tends to be impacted by the model of your practice and if you can adequately pass on the lab expenses to the patients.
The third decision is domestically produced restorations or “off-shore” lab. Typically, this decision is directly related to cost.
From a clinical perspective: Fit, Form and Function are the 3 Fs of prosthetics. Fit, Form and Function are factors which influence deliverability of restorations. Fit is just as it sounds. Does the restoration adequately fit the preparation? Form deals more with contours and shade. Does the lab produce restorations that have ideal contours and color match? Function is also exactly as it sounds. Will the restoration be created in a manner that the patient can easily function with it? If the doctor can receive restorations that can easily address the 3Fs, then they can easily deliver the restorations and effectively utilize chair time.
Other factors which help us select a dental lab are somewhat operational. Do you want a local lab where you can have local pickup and delivery as well as local collaboration? Are you fine with a regional or national lab where you can still get great restorations, but it requires shipping and more electronic communication? As a clinician, you must find the balance between acceptable costs and acceptable restorations. Ultimately the only way to truly find a lab partner is to try a lab and use your criteria to determine if it works for your practice.