What kind of information would you like to have from your dentist?
As a dental laboratory technician you know that you have to work very closely with the dentist. You need to collaborate well with each other to allow you to work efficiently. Only then, will the final restoration fit properly. Nevertheless, things do not always go smoothly. Perhaps there have been occasions when you have felt that you and your dentist could improve the way you communicate.
We asked Vincent Fehmer, a master dental technician from Geneva, Switzerland, what type of information he would like to receive from his dentists when he is working on fixed restorations.
Effective communication is essential
Vincent Fehmer: The dentist and the dental lab technician have to work together very closely and they have to communicate intensively. In straightforward restorations – a first molar, for example – I need at least an impression of the upper and the lower jaw in order to create the crown. Nonetheless, I would also welcome a photo so that I can picture the case more clearly. It does not have to be a professional image taken with an SLR camera. I would be satisfied with a smartphone photo of the tooth with a shade sample beside it.
In more complex cases such as an anterior tooth or full-mouth reconstruction, however, I need the whole works. In order to achieve predictable results, I need access to the study models and wax-ups. In addition, photographic documentation, an exact diagnosis and long-term temporaries are also important.
I like to check my work after every individual working step. For example, after the provisional has been placed and adjusted, I would like to have an alginate impression of the situation. It will show me if I can leave the occlusion as it is, or if I need to change it. A facebow should be used if we have to change anything in the anterior region.
Success as a result of close collaboration
When we are working on a complex restoration – involving anterior and posterior teeth, for instance – joint planning is of the essence. In other words, both parties – the dental technician and the dentist – should discuss the entire case in detail. They do not necessarily have to meet in person – today there are many different possibilities for communicating with one another and exchanging information. It is important to share all the essential details. This includes clear pictures of the case. Furthermore, the dentist and the dental technician must discuss the wishes of their patients. After all, it is their teeth that are being restored.
Often it is the small things that make a difference
Vincent Fehmer: Often small things need to be fine-tuned in the communication process. On the surface they do not seem to be important, but they can nevertheless be time consuming. Take one example: Sometimes, I cannot receive certain pictures because the files are too big for my e-mail. In such cases, I end up wasting a lot time making phone calls. In order to prevent any delays in such situations, I have an agreement with “my” dentists that I will always briefly confirm the receipt of their e-mails. Then both parties are certain that the information has reached its destination. Of course this is a very small, but I hope clear example of an everyday problem.
Details about the author: Vincent Fehmer is a master dental technician at the University of Geneva. He also runs his own dental laboratory in Lausanne (both Switzerland). He received his dental laboratory training in Stuttgart/Germany between 1998 and 2002. Subsequently, he worked at dental laboratories in Great Britain and the US.