Much like the polarization we’re seeing in our country this election year, members of our community—including, of course, the dentists we serve—have different ideas about where they think our industry is headed and, more interestingly, why.
Some believe independent dental laboratories are going to disappear altogether. They are concerned that, in the not-too-distant future, most dentists will use chairside systems to make restorations and those who don’t will be sending work overseas.
This is the most negative end of the spectrum. It includes visions of profit-focused dentists who are compromising the quality of care they deliver in order to boost their bottom line. Part of this comes from buzz about some corporate dental groups working recent grads “to the bone” in an effort to move as many patients through the door as possible.
Some lab owners also voice concern for the quality and depth of education dental students are receiving and say today’s...
LMT’s President Judy Fishman joined TravelFlo Group’s Robert Wisler (left) and Tim Hieb to draw the winning ticket for the company’s Bose SoundLink Speaker giveaway. The winner was Jungeun Kim from Dallas, TX.
Aurident’s Delta Milling Center is now offering BruxZir® Anterior Shaded anterior and premolar crowns and bridges in addition to Delta Yttria-Stabilized Zirconia restorations. At LMT LAB DAY, it also announced three specials, effective until July 31, 2016:
A free titanium scan body with your first milled custom abutment order; the scan bodies are engraved with the implant type for easy identification.
A free scan body kit with the purchase of an Optimet Scanner. A $1,925 value, the kit includes 70 scan bodies—two per implant system—for 35 implants of your choice plus an implant library.
Special abutment pricing: $99 for a titanium abutment and $109 for hybrid abutments; both come with two free screws and you can submit .stl files or models.
Aurident also introduced Helling Anti-Glare 3-D Spray for laser scanning. Its uniform thin application layer eliminates pooling and clumping that can impact scan data accuracy and it’s easy to remove by brushing, air blowing...
James “The Denture Man” Angelone (center), North Royalton, OH, was the lucky winner of Handler’s 2010DCU Denture Curing Unit. Angelone is pictured with Handler’s CEO Bill Lehman and LMT’s Judy Fishman. Bill Lehman has been with Handler for more than 50 years and its CEO for almost 40 years.
LMT’s Editor Kelly Carr and I teamed up this month to put together an LMT-based Q&A. After all, this is The Answers Issue: LMT’s guide to everything you need to know about the dental laboratory industry and those who are in it. I’ve been dominating this Publisher’s Page for over three decades and, though I still love my soapbox, Kelly has a lot to say, too. With over 30 years of excellence in spearheading LMT’s content, it’s about time she has space to air her own views about what’s going on in our community! In January, Kelly updated you on what’s happening with the FDA and custom-milled abutments. It was a prelude of more to come. Though I will still be putting in my two cents, this year you’ll be hearing more from our very well-seasoned editor.
How many issues has LMT published since it was launched in 1984?312, all jam-packed with business strategies for your laboratory!
Which LMT is the...?...issue with LMT’s...
- November 2015
“Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore and you sleep alone!” ~ Anthony Burgess, author of Clockwork Orange
Not everyone who has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) snores and not everyone who snores has OSA, but if you snore—or reside with a snorer like I do—you’re probably not always getting the best quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation contributes to a decline in cognitive processes, creates anxiety and depression and can lead to a myriad of serious heart-related and other medical conditions. So, clearly, that’s simply not acceptable. Sleep we must!
So Andy and I have sought treatment for his very loud, irregular snoring and that landed us in the world of sleep studies and CPAP machines. Since OSA is a medical condition, diagnosis and treatment must be left up to physicians but there is a definite and strong medical/dental connection.
Quite a few years ago, former Lab Owner Alan Barnes became fascinated with the field of...
. . . to be Jolly, yes, but not because the Christmas holiday is two months away. ’Tis because it’s show season and it’s off to an outstanding start with over 1,000 attendees for the first time ever at LMT LAB DAY East! This, despite the fact that there were three other key industry programs the same weekend (Nobel Biocare and Sirona events in Las Vegas and the National Denturist Association’s 9th Annual Conference in nearby Washington, DC)!
Though we had a good feeling about leaving our former location in New York City for the resort town of Atlantic City, NJ, we couldn’t have anticipated a more wonderful weekend experience. The Convention Center Exhibit Hall was bright and airy and enabled us to provide a comfortable and spacious environment. Attendees drove into the area from all directions and, once there, were greeted with balmy weather and the smell of the ocean; a calming departure from the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan.
In comparison to years...
- October 2015
For years, members of my family—as well as of our staff—have wanted to duck under the table whenever they’d go out to dinner with me. It is so widely known among my friends that I can be, well, a “difficult customer,” that when my sister wrote and sang a song about my restaurant escapades for a surprise birthday party years ago, it was met with uproarious laughter and praise.
There are two very good reasons for my “difficult” behavior: one is that I have dietary restrictions that require me to ask a lot of questions before I order. But the other is that, like everyone else, I work hard for the money I earn and therefore, when I spend it, I expect a certain level of customer service. When I don’t get it, I am vocal when it isn’t delivered.
I speak up because my intention is to help bring the concerns to light so they can be corrected. I think that’s what makes me particularly captivated by the TV show, Undercover Boss. I respect...
- August 2015
Most people probably respond to the question posed in the headline above with something like, “because it makes me feel good to do something nice for someone else.” So what do I want your help with? Plain and simple: I want YOUR participation in LMT surveys.
Next month begins LMT’s 32nd year serving the information needs of the dental laboratory community and, during these years we’ve established ourselves as the Survey Queens (we’d be the Kings if we were guys but we’re not ☺).
But this request is really not about us. It’s about YOU. Among our numerous research projects, we provide you with the Wage and Fee Surveys every two years and report on the State of the Industry every five years. None of our reports would be possible without you. None of them!
We are eternally grateful to our incredibly valuable survey participants! Sometimes our surveys can be time consuming yet you guys are always willing to speak up, answer our multiple choice questions...
- July 2015
Many years ago I attended a dental industry seminar on personnel nightmares, given by John Ness, Founder of PTC and the Productivity Training system. He described four types of potential troublemakers in organizations but I was particularly struck by the type he called “Harry.”
“Harry’s,” he said, are often delightful, can-do personalities, do impeccable work and seem like perfect employees, but they have a dark side. In ways it’s quite difficult to pinpoint, they also subtly undermine the operation and/or its leadership, dragging down company morale without anyone realizing how or why. “Harry’s” are often the most damaging personnel type of all.
I specifically remembered “Harry” because I suspected I had one on my staff. Like Ness explained, it was nearly impossible to put my finger on how “Harry” affected us and it took me more time than I wish it had to make a move.
Last month I gave a public shout out to my...
- June 2015
Recently, I was talking to industry veteran George Obst about my startup years and our conversation got me thinking about how the priorities of a small business owner shift as the business matures.
In the beginning, it was all about having enough customers to pay the bills while at the same time making sure our products—the magazine and then LAB DAY—met the needs of the market so we could be sure we’d keep being able to pay those bills. Those were the years of 100-hour workweeks.
Once we established our market presence, we continued to build market share and market value. Four years after starting LMT we introduced Synergy, a magazine for both dental technicians and dentists. We knew it was “an idea ahead of its time” but were eager to push the envelope because we truly believe in the importance of the team effort. However, the market wasn’t receptive and we learned quickly what made us happy and what made us unhappy in our work lives; we folded it after...
- May 2015
Awhile back we had an online debate, via LMTmag.com, about what’s good, better, best when it comes to man-made or machine-engineered restorations. By now, it seems the answer is clear: both. In the same way “art versus science” was the community debate of the 1980s and 90s, I think most technicians would agree that, ideally, it’s a blend.
At LAB DAY this year—as well as at the IDS in Cologne—exactly what became clear is that we mortals have been forced to recognize that machines are, and forever forward will be, our creative partners for many things, including the creation of prosthetics. There was an acceptance and understanding among attendees that being a player means incorporating advanced technologies into the laboratory environment.
Though there were a number of product introductions—among them, lab and intraoral scanners, 3D printers and milling units, digital fabrication materials and digital solutions for removable prostheses—stronger,...
- April 2015
We are all still swept up in the vortex of transition to all things digital; while overwhelming, it is also exhilarating. You know exactly what I mean if, like me, you just returned from LMT LAB DAY 2015+ or the IDS in Cologne!
Many of those I spoke to at the show are convinced that great opportunities are out there for them. They know, however, that to recognize their path, they must be ever alert to market trends and product/technology capabilities.
Their conviction, along with the need to have a “student” mentality (persistently learning new ways to do things) is, in itself, a good road map to follow. We know for sure that technology is continuing to evolve—rapidly—which means we must also be willing to continue changing the ways we work.
However, I also believe we can count on two other “givens.” One—as I mentioned last month—is the growing focus on affordable dentistry. In Chicago, the question of price points came up time and again:...
- March 2015
At the NADL’s Vision 21 meeting in Las Vegas, presentations and discussions focused on where dentistry is headed in the next 10-20 years; clearly this is the topic du jour. So much has changed in these last five years that we at LMT could hardly wait to collect and analyze the survey data you so generously provided us with this past fall in preparation for our 2015 State of the Industry series.
What the future looks like is not only the $64,000 question; it’s a downright rhetorical one! In other words, who knows? Bill Gates once made the observation that “most people tend to overestimate the rate of change that will occur on a two-year basis and underestimate the rate of change that will occur over 10 years.”
However, we know a few things that are constant, even in a continual state of flux:
Passion is powerful—enthusiasm, optimism and an enjoyment for your work are contagious.
Those who adapt most quickly and are able to ingest change will stay ahead of the...
- February 2015
So many of you are driven by your love for the technology itself that I thought I’d add in my two cents about The Texas Center for Occlusal Studies [minimally invasive, full-mouth rejuvenation dentistry].
Ever since my niece was diagnosed with a Lyme disease-created TMJ disorder—and successfully repaired by Mark Piper, DDS, in St. Petersburg, FL—I’ve had a special, albeit layperson’s, interest in occlusion. So I jumped at the invitation from Lab Owners Curt Mortgese and Center Co-Founder Dan O’Rourke to attend an introductory course on Rejuvenation Dentistry last month.
Attendees could not have been more passionate perfectionists, eager to be mentored, corrected and educated about ways the dentist-dental technician team can bring life-changing relief and wellness to patients suffering from a myriad of facial issues or discomfort. There were no egos at the Center and that, alone, created an incredible learning environment and enriching experience.
- January 2015
A few months ago, my son turned me on to two television reality shows that I feel have merit for anyone who runs a small business or aspires to: The Profit, on CNBC, showcasing the multi-talented Marcus Lemonis, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Camping World; and Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares, starring restaurateur, Chef Gordon Ramsay. Unfortunately, Ramsay retired this series at the end of 2014. Fortunately, there are 123 episodes you can watch on YouTube.
Say what you will about reality TV; these shows are like business school by proxy.
Without knowing any particular market, Lemonis attempts to save failing businesses—from beauty shops to sporting goods—assessing, reinventing and turning them around. For Lemonis, whose mantra is “people, product, process,” the buck stops with integrity. If the business owner(s) he comes to help is not completely transparent with him regarding the status of his business—financial and otherwise—he walks away—but...
- December 2014
Every now and then something comes along to add spice and extra-rich texture to the make-up of our community and that kind of energy is both welcome and contagious. If you’re familiar with the group that calls itself DTG, the Dental Technicians Guild, you know what I mean. It has an edgy cool that exudes energy and also draws it in. Its goal is to celebrate a passion for restorations that mimic natural dentition in both form and function.
Social media plays a large role in keeping members of the group active and engaged 24/7. DTG members share photos of their work on the Guild’s members-only Facebook page and enhance their skills and capabilities by openly sharing tips, techniques and ideas with one another. The Guild also has its own magazine featuring member contributions and hosts an annual meeting in Utah every year.
The exclusivity factor has its appeal: to keep the group functioning as well as it currently does, it needs to be manageably sized, so it isn’t all that...
- November 2014
Competing on price is not, of course, an unfamiliar reality—production/high volume laboratories have been the perceived competitors of small laboratories for decades. But now, with digital technology available to all size laboratories, the competitive arena enables some laboratories to make a comfortable profit via sheer volume and that is one of the causes of industry-wide price erosion.
As you see from our cover story, The Race to the Bottom is the takeaway mantra of respondents to LMT’s 2014 Fee Survey and it isn’t pretty. Because of price competition—fueled largely by full contour zirconia, which has turned into a commodity of sorts—C&B fees have been mostly stagnant. Many laboratories are churning out more units yet raking in lower profits. Not good.
So what are we going to do to turn things around?
There are no black-and-white solutions but high on the list are:
Focusing on/enhancing your customer service
Increasing your knowledge base
- October 2014
After meeting at LAB DAY West 2013, Sully Samartzis invited LMT’s Judy Fishman to visit his laboratory when she arrived in Arizona later that year. The laboratory is a pristine addition to a gorgeously appointed home, designed by wife Debbie, a professional interior decorator.
In 1999, Sully Samartzis had a toothache on #13. Treatment meant a root canal procedure followed by a crown. Of Greek descent, he’d only been in the U.S. for three months, arriving here from Germany with a degree in electronics and $1,400 to his name.
Intent on being self-employed and, ideally, working from home once he settled down, he determined that the way to pay for his dental work was to learn how to fabricate the crown himself. He got an apprenticeship at the dental laboratory down the hall from the dentist’s office and learned how to opaque crowns. He then took it upon himself to learn complete porcelain build up and, though a metal finisher made the post and coping, he built the porcelain...
Once she arrived in Arizona last fall, LMT Publisher Judy Fishman visited Scott Atkin, Owner of Creative Milling Dental Laboratory and CEO of Dental Lab Milling Supplies, LLC, in Scottdale, AZ, just as Bentley, Atkin’s massive Bernese Mountain Dog, was headed out for a walk with one of the staff members. Atkin “struck gold” in 2007 by adding a retail component to his business model to stay ahead of what’s trending and increase his revenue base.
“The focus for labs these days needs to be on creating win-win opportunities for themselves and their clients,” says Scott Atkin, Owner, Creative Dental Laboratory, in Scottsdale, AZ. “We know we’re moving evermore toward automated—and more commoditized—processes so, to me, that means we need to expand our services.” That’s exactly what Atkin did; in his case, offering products not to dentist-clients but to other laboratories.
It happened in one of those “meant to be”...
With all the bad news about stiff competition and price erosion, I thought we all could use a “feel good” reminder that you deliver an invaluable service to the patients who receive your work; I’m one of them!
In March 2013, I went to a local general practitioner to have number 14 looked at. I was unable to chew without getting a shooting pain. (I wrote about this earlier and, for the details and more photos, go to http://lmtmag.com/series/baddentistry.)
Unfortunately, because this dentist didn’t realize how traumatized the tooth was—and didn’t give it a chance to settle down after removing a cracked filling—her treatment resulted in the loss of the tooth; not all at once, but little by little such that the summer of 2013 was dental hell.
I changed course and sought recommended specialists to take over my case but, in the end, I was scheduled for an implant. The Biomet 3i implant—selected and placed by periodontist Michael Sonick, DMD, Fairfield,...
- September 2014
The great transition taking hold of the way our community works is far from settling down as strategies continue to be employed and tested by tomorrow’s business leaders. Some of the changes have the capacity to pull the rug out from under us even as we retool to adapt to today’s innovations.
Though there will be an increased need for restorative work among aging boomers in the near future, right now it’s a huge challenge for laboratories to make it to that future. Having a detailed read on the market—that would enable you to see your own future more clearly—would be a goldmine.
We think we can deliver this to you. In fact, you’re holding some of that treasure trove right now in the form of the 2014 Wage Survey Report.
Right off the bat here, I want to acknowledge and thank you for giving your time so generously to fill out our very detailed Wage and Fee Surveys. As you read through this issue—the first of our Fiscal Fitness series—you will...
- August 2014
LMT’s Buyer’s Guide is timed to coincide with your end-of-year fiscal planning and serves as a reminder that the cost of purchased or leased equipment (as well as off-the-shelf software) can be deducted under Section 179 of the IRS Tax Code.
- June 2014
One of the reasons lab owners prefer to fly solo is that they have no appetite for dealing with the challenges that come with personnel management.
There’s no doubt that more people mean more issues. However, there are also as many, if not more, positives for having employees, key among them is that they play a critical role in a business’s ability to grow and prosper.
Listening to recent news discussions for or against raising the federally mandated minimum wage to $10.10 has me wondering: What do you feel your responsibility is to your employees? What obligations do you feel you have toward the people who help build your business? What considerations play a role in how much you pay them for their time and contributions?
Most of the time lab owners tell me they pay entry-level employees the wage necessary to attract them in their regional area. We also know from our Wage Surveys that average laboratory pay scales exceed the current federal minimum wage. So I throw this question...