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Know your friends

It's always good to know who your friends are. True friends celebrate your successes in life.

It is human nature to sometimes fail to recognize your friends. Dentists are no exception to this flaw. Our professional success is often due in no small part to the contributions of our colleagues in dental laboratory technology.

Dentists are in the fortunate position of delivering the culmination of our collaborative efforts to the patient and of receiving the accolades. How often do you share the limelight with your technician, or even give him or her a call with a congratulatory pat on the back?

I have been fortunate during my professional career to be true friends with the laboratory technicians with whom I work, and it has given me the opportunity to, shall we say, see the dental profession from the "other side of the bench."

The good ones are highly skilled and only want to produce products with the highest quality workmanship. You only need to take a tour in their labs to witness the frustration they experience with some cases. They can only produce a finished product that reflects the quality of the impressions, bites and instructions given them. As my crown and bridge technician says, "One remake guts the profit for both the dentist and laboratory, not to mention the inconvenience it creates for the patient."

What could cause these problems?

Possibly changes in dental school curriculum. Less time is allotted for students to do their own clinical lab work, if they do any at all. If the student has to construct the prosthesis on preparations and impressions followed by delivery of that work to the patient, the student soon learns where improvements in technique are needed. Is it fair to the student not to have this learning experience? Is it fair to the dental laboratory? I think not.

That said, what other options present themselves?

Take the time to establish a good working relationship with your laboratory technician. Work as a true team with an open mind and learn from each other. Take continuing education courses together.

It will be rewarding for you, your technician and the patients you serve.

Dr. Cubbon is the president of the Chicago Dental Society. His comments, reprinted here with permission, originally appeared in the May/June issue of CDS Review.

Editor's note: In San Antonio last month, the ADA House of Delegates approved Resolution 62H-2008, which calls for the ADA to develop a 2009 Future of Dental Laboratory Technology Conference that will enable interested stakeholders to discuss the current state of dental laboratory services, training in the United States and actions that can be taken to ensure that the quality of prosthetic services delivered in the U.S. remains high.

Participants in the conference will include representation from the American Dental Association Board of Trustees, the ADA Council on Dental Practice, the Council on Scientific Affairs, the Council on Dental Education and Licensure, ADA members at-large, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the Prosthodontic Forum, the Academy of General Dentistry, the National Association of Dental Laboratories, the American Dental Education Association and the American Student Dental Association.