By T.G. Hornischer Jr., CDT, and Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA
The lab tech is often an invisible face, ever elusive in a time of need. This detachment leads to failed communication and, eventually, pointing the finger when something goes wrong. Instead of being at odds with the dental office you've partnered with, learn how to communicate and make your relationship successful for everyone involved from the story of Tija Hunter, a dental assistant, and T.G. Hornischer, a dental lab representative.
"Throughout my 29 years as a dental assistant, I never had great communication with a dental lab in any office; the lab just came and picked up the box, bringing it back a few weeks later. That was it. Oh, and the doctor called if he had a problem – but there wasn't much contact beyond that. The lab staff was invisible, except for the delivery guy.
Eventually, our frustrations grew when we felt our removable work was not what we expected it to be. The doctor blamed the tech, the tech blamed the doctor, and communication was nonexistent. We quit doing business with that lab, and in my quest to find a new one, I made it clear that I wanted total communication. During one phone call (much to my surprise and before I could utter a word), the gentleman on the other end told me that he was a communicator and that he would be calling if he came across any concerns. Not only that, but he said I could call him any time if I had a concern. I was shocked! I told him that we didn't want to be told what to do without first being told why we should do it.
That was well over a year ago, and that man was T.G. Hornischer. T.G. showed us that we had to start by investing in some equipment – small things that would enhance our communication. He made sure that we had the tools necessary to communicate with him properly. He took time to explain how these things would help us all. He effectively became a member of our team, and a very important one at that. Although I have not had the pleasure of meeting the other members of T.G.'s team, I am sure that their commitment to customers is consistent throughout the lab. I think their lab stands out because of this commitment. These days, there is a lab on every corner, and to be successful, one must stand out. The best way to do that is by ramping up customer service. It's the one service that shows clients you're committed to them."
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, is an expanded functions dental assistant/office manager in O'Fallon, Mo. She is a part-time assisting instructor for Advanced Dental Careers, member of the ADAA, and an independent dental consultant specializing in team building, assistant training, and office organization.
"As lab tech and dental assistant, we each know the value of marketing. Whether you work in a dental lab or in dental office, you have to stand out from the other guys in the business. Together, Tija and I wanted to share some of the tools that make our relationship smooth. These tools are simple and easily implemented into your office to help you stand out. In many cases, doctors admittedly do not get much training in dentures in dental school. Very little time is spent teaching the proper techniques, and there is very little practice before a student graduates. Therefore, when a dentist opens her practice, she needs a world of help to properly make a denture. Enter the lab tech.
A lab tech working in removable prosthetics is a valuable member of any dental team, and can be extremely important in developing and implementing a removable program for your office. As the assistant, you need the lab tech's knowledge and services. With baby boomers aging, dental implants are more widely accepted, so this is an exciting time to be in the business of making dentures and partials. The first priority of anyone in the dental field should be education. In the ever-evolving world of dentistry, members of the team should be continuously educated to help the office and themselves grow.
The lab tech is much more of an asset than the office often realizes. Have the lab tech visit the office for a lunch ‘n' learn. Most offices never get the opportunity to see anyone except the delivery guy from the lab, so have the tech come in and educate the team on the products and services that will help them communicate better with you. Communication is key! Dental assistants are a lab tech's best allies. Learn how to use an Alma gauge, have the tech explain the benefits of a Vita 3-D Shade Guide, or how a papillameter gives the lip line. Have the tech demonstrate the measurements that need to be taken, and how it helps those in the lab know what the patient wants. Once you understand the "why and how," you'll be able to give the lab what it needs to make a great denture.
Do you know your lab guy, or is he an invisible face? When you and your lab tech have total communication and each of you understands how to help the other, your work together will be much smoother."
T.G. Hornischer Jr., CDT, is the recipient of the NADL's Excellence in Education Award and Merit Award. T.G. earned his degree in dental technology in 1979, and received his National Board Certification in 1981. He earned his Technologist designation from the NBC in 2006.