Having an on-staff dentist gives these two laboratories a unique competitive advantage. You can offer clients a higher level of service, better address technical issues and offer a wealth of continuing education opportunities. Internally, your technicians get a rare chairside perspective and insight into the dentist's mind.
When da Vinci Dental Studios, West Hills, California, received a particularly difficult implant case, it had an ace in its pocket: the expertise of recently hired staff dentist, Dr. Steven Weinberg.
A patient presented with a class III bite, missing teeth #4-12 with four misaligned, lingualized implants, and he wanted to restore his bite to a class I without any bridgework and a natural, esthetic result. The client asked daVinci to create a framework that would correct the challenges of the bite, overcome the implant misplacement and fabricate nine all-ceramic crowns on a metal framework with pink tissue. "This kind of design presents a lot of challenges when it comes to dental hygiene and overall functionality and Dr. Weinberg was instrumental in pointing out certain design changes that would minimize these issues," says Chester Garcia, CEO of the 95-person operation.
While Dr. Weinberg is only in the laboratory about four days each month, he's accessible during business hours via phone or e-mail. Both clients and technicians can contact him directly for technical advice and he's also taking a high-profile role in the lab's continuing education efforts. For instance, next year, in addition to lecturing at da Vinci's new 1500-sq.-ft. education center, Dr. Weinberg is going on a 24-city seminar tour focusing on practice marketing and incorporating high-end cosmetic procedures, from selling the case and case planning all the way through cementation and delivery.
Daxton Grubb, president of R-dent Dental Laboratory, has also recently hired a dentist for his 25-person operation in Bartlett, Tennessee. Dr. Bob Hewitt focuses on servicing the top 20% of the laboratory's customers, offering hands-on tips and techniques for impression taking and more. He's in the laboratory two half-days a week and is also on call during business hours via cell phone and e-mail. R-dent markets this free service mainly through in-office visits, the laboratory website and manufacturer sales reps and has created a sell sheet outlining Hewitt's services.
An on-staff dentist allows both laboratories to take their services to a new level and clients are taking note. "So far, our clients are impressed with the service," says Grubb. "I focus on the fact that we're trying to make our laboratory more valuable to them and that he's here to help us both out, not to judge their work."
Inside the Laboratory
When it comes to quality control and day-to-day troubleshooting, an in-house dentist is proving to be an invaluable resource to both laboratories. For instance, Dr. Hewitt was instrumental in solving a recurring problem with one of R-dent's clients that had the staff baffled. For six months, the client reported issues with consistently high occlusion, and seating the restoration was taking up to 30 minutes instead of his usual 10.
"We knew none of our other doctors had this issue, but we couldn't figure out the problem," says Grubb. "When Dr. Hewitt looked at it, he saw right off the bat that the doctor was using an extremely rigid impression material. Since we were placing the model back into the triple tray for the bite verification, even though the impression seemed to go all the way back into the impression, it was held up slightly by the rigidity." As a result of Dr. Hewitt's suggestions, the lab now uses a "pour-to-pour technique" for proper centric relationship and doesn't separate the bite until the model work is fully articulated. "This immediately solved the issue and helped us to salvage the account," says Grubb.
By bringing the clinical perspective and valuable client insight to the table, the laboratory staff also gets a unique inside look at the challenges dentists face, creating a win-win for the entire dental team. For instance, using actual cases the lab had received with less-than-ideal preps, Dr. Weinberg explained why the dentists prepared the cases the way they did. "By explaining these difficulties--like how hard it is to prep a tooth distally when it's in the back of the mouth--our technicians have a better understanding and can have a more intelligent conversation with our clients," says Garcia. "On the flip side, if our clients feel like we understand what they have to go through, they'll be more receptive to what we have to say."
Being able to draw on the expertise of a dentist is also boosting technicians' confidence with client interaction and lends weight to feedback from the laboratory. "Technicians don't always have that much credibility in clinical aspects and we've encountered a lot of resistance from dentists. As a result, many of our technicians hesitate to engage our clients at that level," says Garcia. "With Dr. Weinberg on staff, that's changed. Our employees are now more confident when they're talking to clients about technical issues because they know if they get to a level they aren't comfortable with they can bring him in."