Bridging the Dental Labs and Dentist

Dental labs play an important part in the workflow of any dentist and is required for quality products for the patients.

Practical experience is gained in work placement laboratories where students produce appliances for patient treatments with minimal contact with clinics or dentists. There seems to be little provision to integrate education with dental undergraduates. Traditionally, teaching hospitals ran dental technical training programs which could allow contact and sometimes an element of integrated learning for clinical and technical students.

However, recently in cities such as London these dental hospital-based courses have closed due to a lack of funding. Some of those schools now offer work experience to college-based student technicians, which may involve contact with dental students as well as the opportunity for joint education.

Normally, a dental laboratory constructs any one of a variety of artificial dental structures or appliances, i.e., dentures, partial dentures, crowns and bridges, which serve to replace a patient’s lost dentition in an aesthetically pleasing manner. These structures are commonly referred to as “cases” during their fabrication in a dental laboratory and are fabricated in accordance with a prescription provided by the dentist.

There are a number of systems presently available in the marketplace that automate certain aspects of the operation of a dental laboratory in the fabrication of the dental appliances or cases. However, these prior art systems leave much to be desired. Most importantly, these systems are concerned primarily with the record keeping functions of the dental laboratory and often do little more than automate the generation of invoices sent to the dentists prescribing the appliances. Because these presently available systems are geared toward the limited functions of record keeping, they are arranged to gather only the information relating to a case that is necessary for generating bills.

Effective communication between dentist and dental technician is often poor. It was the view of the dental technicians who responded that newly qualified dentists do not have an appropriate understanding of technical techniques. Dental schools are still not preparing new graduates to communicate effectively with dental laboratories.

Good communication between clinician and dental technician is VITAL if a good end result is to be achieved. This must continue to be taught and reinforced to undergraduate dentists.