Monday, February 21, 2005

Dental Laboratory Industry Feels the Sting of Global Competition.

A Press Release from Keri Kramer, Director of Communications Chicago Dental Society:

Dental Laboratory Industry Feels the Sting of Global Competition.

Consortium formed to tackle issues crucial to the survival of the industry.

Changes to the dental technician curriculum important focus of their efforts.

Dental technicians, who work hand-in-hand with dentists to create crowns, dentures and other oral appliances, are facing a serious crisis that could result in a once lucrative and creative field withering on the vine, at least in the United States.

Dental laboratories, which employ technicians, are increasingly facing competition from foreign competitors, especially those in China and the Philippines. Over the last few years, all five of the top major dental laboratories have moved part of their operations to other countries.

“The mom-and-pop labs are in danger of disappearing,” says renowned clinician and educator Dr. Gordon Christensen, who is spearheading an effort to revitalize the industry, together with UCLA’s College of Dentistry. “They can’t compete with the major labs who are now able to offer a lower-cost product with a faster turnaround, all while potentially increasing their profit margin.”

The dental laboratory industry produces $5 billion in sales annually and employs more than 52,000. The majority of these technicians work for independent businesses.

But labs are not the only ones who stand to lose if the U.S. industry falters. Dental product manufacturers who sell to labs are concerned, and colleges and universities that train dental technicians are cutting their programs. In Illinois, only one dental technician program remains, at Southern Illinois University.

Dr. Gordon Christensen and Dr. William Yancey, assistant dean at UCLA’s School of Dentistry, have organized a consortium of dentists, dental laboratory technicians, dental industry professionals, administrators and educators to tackle issues critical to the survival of the dental laboratory industry. They will hold their first meeting February 22–23 in Chicago.

Dr. Gordon Christensen asked me to pass the following information along to media who would be attending our Midwinter Meeting. To follow up with Dr. Christensen, please call his office at (801) 226-6569 or call the other organizer of this conference, Dr. William Yancey at (310) 206-7557.

So, what will the future hold for independent dental laboratories? Competition from off-shore dental laboratories, implant technology and in-dentist office CAD-CAM restoration fabrication may reduce the volume of units of both fixed and removeable prostheses.

Stay tuned!

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