Paul Abraham and Mark Ambridge say: “Your UK dental technician needs you!”
If dental technology wasn’t already vulnerable before the COVID-19 crisis, it certainly is now. At the time of writing, the UK is just levering itself out of the third national lockdown and although dental practices remained open – even in a limited capacity in some cases – many are not working at full capacity.
This reduction has directly impacted dental laboratories. Many dental labs are operating at a fraction of their usual capacity and have received little to no income for several months. The situation has only been exacerbated by the difficulties labs have faced in accessing appropriate financial support.
A number of dental lab owners have received little, if any, income, and while wages for some lab staff continue to be covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), job losses have occurred and more may follow given that the CJRS is coming to an end very soon.
There is a great deal of anxiety surrounding cash flow, and dental technicians fear redundancies with labs under increasing pressure to either make drastic workforce reductions or close permanently.
In a recent article Steve Taylor – President of the British Association of Clinical Dental Technology (BACDT) – said: “It is anticipated that 85% of dental laboratories within the UK will be making staff redundant. This could easily equate to well over 1,500 dental technicians being lost to the profession. There were only 6,000 technicians registered with the GDC, so this loss would be an enormous percentage.”
The delivery of exceptional dental treatment could not be possible without the collaboration between dentist and dental technician, which is why it is alarming to think that many technicians who leave dentistry now may never return in the future. This would be a significant loss of skills and knowledge, which are incredibly valuable to young dentists, who often rely on experienced dental technicians for support in completing complex and/or advanced cases.
Technicians who have invested heavily in the latest digital technology to facilitate the quick and cost-effective delivery of highly aesthetic and functional restorations are faced with a hefty price tag. Cashflow problems will affect their ability to make outstanding payments on equipment purchased through finance plans and will have to rely on personal savings or loans to keep their businesses afloat.
The current situation underscores the need for dental practices to support labs wherever possible, which starts with ensuring that the first bill paid at the beginning of the month is the one for any lab work provided. In this case, paying on time is an absolute must as any delays could tip some dental labs over the edge.
Early payments are ideal, considering a dental lab might owe for the cost of restorative components and materials. Some companies have increased prices for dental lab supplies due to the combined challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, further emphasising the degree to which labs are being squeezed from every direction.
That’s why it’s also important to ensure that there is effective communication and transfer of information between dentist and dental technician. Good quality impressions/scans and correct shade taking, for instance, are essential in order to reduce the need for costly and time-consuming remakes.
Dental practices can go a step further in easing some of the pressure for dental technicians by only collaborating with registered labs that are UK-based and avoiding those that outsource work overseas. The BACD has always advocated for stronger professional relationships between dentists and dental technicians, which is why it encourages members and non-members alike to take action now and secure a brighter future for everyone within the profession.
Now, more than ever, collaboration is vital if dental practices and labs are to ensure a successful recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all riding different boats through the same storm, so it is to every dentist and dental technician’s advantage that they support each other if they are to see sunnier days ahead.
Mark Ambridge (image in text) is the founder and owner of Ambridge Ceramics, where he is also lead ceramist, Paul Abraham (top) is currently the President of the BACD. For more information, visit www.bacd.com