Fifteen years ago if anyone were to suggest the many changes that have taken place in the lab business, I would have blown them off. No way, never going to happen or at least not that fast. There are some changes that are great and others that are not. In fact, fifteen years ago I would explain to outsiders that dental technology was a “highly technical miniature art form.” I no longer use this to describe today’s dental technician. Let’s look at some of the changes, both good and not so good.
There are many large companies attempting to get a bigger piece of the revenue generated by the sale of a lab fabricated restoration. For instance, FDA clearance is now required to produce custom abutments in labs. Most of us produced these highly accurately in-house with good profit margins. In recent polls, more than 80% of labs are outsourcing. Milling centers are setup to take a piece of the profits as well. Fifteen years ago we were paying $1-1.50 for a gram of porcelain (about what was needed to produce a crown). Today, we pay about $12 per unit for pressed ceramic ingots. In addition to the above, the price of a crown has come way down. Significantly better, full contour zirconia is $7-8 a unit for top-of-the-line materials.
Finding quality lab technicians is a problem. Automation has made it much faster to develop talent. We are also getting more work out of staff through digital manufacturing. Anatomic libraries are providing labs with improved and consistent morphology. The companies that have brought digital products to dental technology are now on 3rd and 4th generation machines. Software has become more intuitive and automated manufacturing has become easy. That said, embracing technology and bringing in as much of the manufacturing as possible is your best path to thrive.
Thanks for reading. Please share with a friend.
Bob Cohen, CDT