We've got the ball rolling. We're moving the needle in the right direction--maybe not as fast or as far as we'd like--but it's moving," said Dr. James Willey, Director of the ADA's Council on Dental Practice, addressing almost 50 technicians, dentists, educators, manufacturers and association representatives at the 8th annual Lab Summit in Chicago.
The ADA's involvement in the Summit has grown substantially since the group was formed in 2005 by Drs. Gordon Christensen and Bill Yancey to brainstorm about the challenges facing the laboratory community. As in past years, the meeting touched on many of our profession's ongoing difficulties, including the aging technician population, dwindling technology programs, increased offshore competition and the need for closer dentist-technician relationships.
But this year's meeting also offered a look at what's been accomplished as well as projects in the works. For example:
•In keeping with the ADA's 2010 resolutions to encourage and improve clinical/laboratory working relationships, the first joint dentist-technician course was offered at the ADA's annual meeting last Fall. Presented by Nelson Rego, CDT, Dentists and Dental Technicians Team Up for Success outlined techniques for collaborative treatment planning including effective prescriptions, better impressions and digital photography. The course earned the highest possible ratings from the 155 attendees and was a "home run," according to Dr. Willey.
•Last year, the ADA and the NADL co-funded a video presentation promoting careers in dental technology. Preview the video at www.nadl.org; to order a DVD for $15, you can follow the link to the ADA's order form.
•The NADL has expedited the process of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)'s reclassification of dental technicians, and changes may be made five years earlier than initially thought. The DOL lowered the classification from skilled to unskilled labor in 2010 based on a random survey of about 600 technicians. Concerned about the repercussions of the reclassification, the NADL immediately began lobbying the DOL to reverse its decision but was told occupational classifications wouldn't be reviewed again until 2018. Working with Rep. John Kline, R-MN, the NADL was able to fast-track the request; another survey will be conducted this year and changes may be made as early as 2013.
•At the invitation of the FDA, the NADL will have a five-hour meeting with FDA representatives in May to clarify a number of issues related to labs that fabricate implant abutments, existing lead-level standards for dental materials, GMP compliance for dental practices with in-office CAD/CAM, and the increase in FDA inspections in U.S. laboratories.
•This summer, the NADL is launching a multi-year public relations campaign using social media, billboard advertising, and radio and TV spots to educate patients on the importance of having quality restorations manufactured to specific standards. The campaign will also include a "quality seal" that NBC-Certified Dental Laboratories (or those that are DAMAS- or ISO-certified) can include with each case to certify it was designed and manufactured for patient safety and meets all federal FDA and state regulations.