Running a dental or orthodontic practice means managing a lot of expenses. Many of these can seem unavoidable. When it comes to sourcing dental products and equipment, there’s no way you can afford to skimp on quality. If it’s going anywhere near your patients’ mouths, they expect and deserve only the best!
This doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to make savings whilst also driving up your standard of care. At East Midlands Orthodontics, we made the decision to employ an in-house technician with his own independent lab rather than purchase from a corporate supplier, and we think it’s produced great results, both for our patients and our bottom line.
For this blog, I chatted to Scott, our in-house technician, to get some insight into his process, explore the value he brings to our business, and to showcase how your practice could also benefit from working with an independent lab.
We use Scott for all our main treatment products, including:
Clear aligners (our proven in-house alternative to Invisalign… more on this later!)
As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s producing this last item that takes up most of Scott’s time. Clear aligners are increasingly popular with patients as they are more aesthetically pleasing, not as intrusive and are a less painful alternative to fixed braces.
They’re also good for clinicians, allowing for shorter treatment times and requiring less maintenance, which speeds up the patient journey and helps practitioners hit their quotas faster.
Most practices source their clear aligners from a big vendor like Invisalign. These guys make great products, and we still use them in certain cases, but since we started working with Scott we’ve come to rely on him to make the bulk of what we use.
Scott’s involvement begins when we send him the patient’s first intraoral scan – although it’s worth bearing in mind that he can also work from an alginate impression, as his lab is fitted with its own digital scanner. With the scan and the treatment plan in hand, Scott can work up an image of what the aligners will look like and send this blueprint back to the practice for approval.
Once the design has been approved, Scott starts printing the aligners. From this point, the devices will usually be ready for collection by the patient within five working days. They can be delivered in small, medium, or large batches, depending on the patient’s needs.
Scott’s clear align devices are equivalent to those provided by Invisalign or any other corporate supplier. They’re produced with Zendura FLX, a crystal-clear, long-lasting plastic which provides the ideal combination of comfort and robustness. Since we’ve started using them, they’ve proven extremely popular with our patients, and typically require fewer changes of aligner to achieve the same result as the alternatives.
On top of the excellent quality of his products, using Scott’s services also provides some extremely valuable benefits to our practice.
As Scott is employed as a part of our team, he’s able to work side-by-side with our orthodontists, so he can make sure that the products he makes match their specifications. If any of our clinicians, nurses or front-of-house staff have a question about the devices he makes, they can reach out and he’ll be able to answer right away – always handy for responding to patient queries. If there are any problems, we know he’ll be there to deal with them, but we’ve had no issues so far!
As Scott explains,
“Communication’s a key factor. By having regular talks with the orthodontists they can let me know how they want to proceed and what they need the lab to make, and then I can make it to that specification.”
Having a clear line of communication with Scott means we have full transparency on costs. His lab fees are lower than corporate suppliers, and as he’s based locally, delivery costs are lower too.
The main benefit of Scott’s services, though, is faster turnaround times – just five days, as opposed to three or four weeks for an external supplier. Rather than sitting around waiting for their aligners to arrive, the patient can get straight on with their treatment, helping them achieve their dazzling new smile that much faster.
The clinician, meanwhile, is able to progress their patients through their journey much more rapidly, allowing them to help more people with their dental issues and bring more business to the practice.
As Scott explains:
“The dentist can see more patients and hit more targets in their quota. They can call the patient in and give them the first five or six aligners, then they won’t need to see them until their twelve-week check-up. Then they can give them the next set, if they’re happy.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, shaving two or three weeks off the patient journey can do wonders both for patient satisfaction and the practice’s financial performance.
Could working with an independent lab be right for you?
As well as supplying East Midlands Orthodontics, Scott’s full range of products are also available for purchase by any other UK practice. He ships nationally, and can work from an alginate impression, so if your practice hasn’t gone fully digital, that’s OK.
If you want your practice to develop, you need to find ways to create efficiencies in the business while also driving up quality for your patients, and sourcing your products from an independent lab is one way you can achieve this winning combination, with benefits including:
Clearer and quicker communication with your supplier
Better coordination between supplier and clinician
Lower fees and greater control over costs
Shorter turnaround times
If you’re interested in discovering more tips for how to create a more dynamic and efficient practice while providing an outstanding patient experience, sign up to my mailing list. There’s a new article every week filled with tips and advice you can try out for yourself.