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Dental Laboratory Summit prompts interactive discussion

March 17, 2014

Lab perspective: Dr. Mark Murphy, a lead faculty member for clinical education at DTI Dental Technologies Inc., discusses the relationship between dentists, dental labs and insurance companies.

Speaking to the point: Dr. Burney Croll, co-founder of the Dental Laboratory Summit, comments during a presentation. This year, attendees commented throughout the meeting, making it a more interactive environment.
This year's Dental Laboratory Summit, held Feb. 19 at the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, was an interactive meeting where attendees engaged in lively dialogue about current issues and possible future scenarios facing the dental laboratory industry.

The summit, held annually prior to the Chicago Dental Society's Midwinter Meeting, is an opportunity for leaders representing all segments of the field—including dentists, educators, dental lab owners and technicians, and staff from several associations, including the American Dental Association—to discuss the issues and brainstorm possible responses.

For years, members of the ADA Council on Dental Practice and council staff have worked with leaders of the dental lab industry to improve relationships between dentists and dental lab workers. One outcome resulting from that effort was Resolution 52H-2013, which last year's House of Delegates passed to encourage all state dental boards to register U.S. dental laboratories as a means of enhancing patient health and safety.

That resolution was on the minds of many those who attended the Dental Lab Summit, especially representatives of the National Association of Dental Laboratories.

"There is great momentum as a result of the passage of the ADA resolution in November," said Gary Iocco, NADL president. "NADL has received a significant number of calls from multiple states regarding how to integrate laboratory operating standards in state dental practice acts, with registration being the first step. We are pleased with the response both from the laboratory community and from the state dental societies and are optimistic that at least five or six states will take action this year."

NADL plans to provide the state dental associations with a toolkit that will help guide them through the process of implementing a system to register dental labs.

"NADL's political advocacy committee includes key leaders in various states and these leaders, in conjunction with NADL staff, will focus on initiating a dialogue on dental laboratory standards with state dental societies and state laboratory associations in certain states," said Bennett Napier, NADL executive director. "We expect to identify which states to focus on based on the density of dental laboratories, the clinical environment relative to dental laboratory technology education as well as other factors."

Summit attendees also discussed the closing of two accredited dental lab schools at the end of the academic year: San Antonio College in Texas and Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Kentucky.

"While these closures are unfortunate, there is a positive outcome: even though there are fewer schools operating, enrollment at the remaining schools is increasing so those schools ultimately will graduate more students than the 19 current schools," Mr. Napier said.

In the past six months, the Foundation for Dental Laboratory Technology, an affiliate of NADL, has raised more than $100,000 in new donations from the dental lab industry and manufacturers to support the schools. Some companies, such as Sirona, have promised in-kind gifts valued at $50,000 in equipment—scanners and computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing software—to each accredited school, said Mr. Napier.

"The integration of CAD/CAM curriculum into dental lab technology programs will enable graduating students to have both theoretical knowledge and valuable applied practical skills. This should result in higher starting wages for dental lab technicians upon graduation and position the profession for continued growth in the future," Mr. Napier said.

For more information on the NADL, visit nadl.org.