Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT
As our world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, dental laboratories have found the need to manage their new and constantly evolving protocols in order to reassure critical parties both inside and outside their laboratory businesses. New levels of anxiety are significant for both laboratory personnel and their dentist clientele with their respective patients. There are measures a laboratory can implement to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus, and many are taking steps to do so. Not only does taking such steps reduce the chance of having an employee test positive and triggering a mandated 14-day quarantine for the laboratory, but it also demonstrates to their clients and patients that the laboratory is doing everything within its power to effectively protect the health of its employees and patients. As such, contactless protocols are being explored to limit the exposure while maintaining the high level of dentistry that each patient deserves.
Contactless protocols are, as the term suggests, reducing or omitting the contact among individuals in order to reduce the chances of spreading the virus. Thankfully, modern technology eloquently provides the means to do so with respect to dental laboratory technology. Utilizing communication tools such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Webex, just to name a few, offers the technician the ability to consult on a restorative case or derive a custom shade all while the clinician and the patient are both in a location at a distance from the laboratory. To enhance these services further, dental-laboratory-specific software can be utilized in the process to generate smile makeovers, mock-ups, and shade determinations with photographs, videos, CAD software, etc. Much like tele-medicine, the idea is to be able to provide dentists and patients the same, if not better, service while laboratory technicians maintain proper social distance.
Many laboratories have been encouraging and even incentivizing their dentists to adopt intraoral scanning technology in order to alleviate the necessity for model transport/delivery, impression material needing disinfection, and gypsum models needing to be poured, as well as an overall reduced level of contact between the dental office and the laboratory personnel. Similarly, laboratories have been encouraging their clientele to pay through automatic and digital means like credit cards, Venmo, or other banking applications, and relying on delivery services like UPS or FedEx—all with the goal to reduce or eliminate face-to-face contact between the laboratory and clinician's office and staff.
As we all very well know, though, our business is based on relationships and the fiscal health of our laboratories depends on constant contact with our clients. So extra effort and planning must be put into communicating effectively with our dentist clients, ensuring that the relationships continue to be strong and our laboratory services do not falter but instead are enhanced. Market your laboratory's contactless protocols to existing and future clients, as they too want to put their patients at ease and this will help them do so.
It is my great honor and pleasure to elevate and inspire with knowledge.