Dental Labs in China: How Much Do You Really Know?

Dentists: How Much Do You Really Know about Dental Labs?

When lead was found in dental crowns made in China, the National Association of Dental Laboratories – the public face of America’s dental labs – was thrust into the spotlight. They have launched a website, http://www.whatsinyourmouth.us, providing consumers with information on the current lead scare.Dentists and dental labs

The typical NADL lab has 10-25 employees, but of course American dental labs come in all shapes and sizes. Single-technician labs still exist, but more are closing every year. Larger labs are becoming more common, as are corporations that operate multiple labs.

Chinese dental labs manufacturing for export to the US are not basement operations. While a large American dental lab might employ a hundred technicians, one in China might have a thousand. Bennett Napier, co-executive director of the NADL, traveled to China to visit laboratories and speak with lab representatives.

Located in south China, Veden Dental Labs has 400 employees who manufacture 4,000 units a day for US and European customers. “It’s a campus environment because they’re working 24-hour shifts,” explained Napier, describing the lab’s golf course and employee housing. “It makes it easier to have employees right there and if there are peak times, the people are right there on site and they can walk 20 feet from housing and go to work.” (Take a look inside a Chinese lab.)

Not all Chinese labs have on-site employee housing. However, the three-shift workday is typical. Operating 24 hours a day, these labs are able to churn out large volumes of work in short periods of time. A crown, for example, takes about four days.

In fact, sending work to China for manufacturing can actually save time. Even including shipping, the turnaround time for Chinese work tends to be a week. Some American labs take 10 days or longer.

And at as little as $29 a unit, the price of a Chinese-fabricated crown is impossible to beat. Foreign dental labs are changing the economic reality of lab work. In 2007 alone, the number of dental implants imported to the US from China increased by 35%.

What will this mean for American dental labs? Well, things are only going to get more difficult for small mom-and-pop operations. Some theorize that US dental labs will become increasingly divided into two categories: mega-labs run with with brutal efficiency, and an upper echelon of boutique labs catering to higher-end dental practices.

Some American dental “labs” don’t actually have their own laboratories or do their own manufacturing. They would more properly be called brokers. They accept orders from dentists, then send the work to actual dental labs (sometimes domestically, sometimes internationally) for manufacturing.

All dental labs are required to label products along the lines of “Manufactured by X Dental Lab, Shanghai, China” or “Distributed by X Dental Laboratory, New York, NY, USA.” But keep in mind that a product distributed by an American company may still have been manufactured in another country.

Dentists are not required to pass this information on to their patients. This is in stark contrast to Canada, where patients must sign a consent form if their dental work is manufactured outside of the country.

Of course the FDA does have regulations for importing dental prostheses into the US, but enforcement is limited. Each and every single manufactured crown or bridge is supposed to be accompanied by a 510k form filed with the FDA. (See a sample 510k form.)

In the case of the dental industry, the FDA does not regulate the final products per se; rather, they regulate the materials. Even if a dental crown was manufactured in China, it was likely produced using materials made in the US or Europe.

Or at least, that’s what the Chinese dental labs say. But how can a dentist be absolutely certain the lab uses the materials they say they do? That’s why a trusted dental lab is one of a dentist’s most valuable resources. If a dentist has not done his or her due diligence in selecting a lab, that dentist could be held liable.

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About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

  • http://reddingsedationdentist.com Jim Crummett

    Jim, this is a good piece of writing. While outsourcing will always be controversial, it also offers opportunities. The trick to using foreign labs is to work with a reputable stateside lab as an access point, and let them do the actual outsourcing. Northwest Dental Labs in Seattle is such a company. I deal directly with them, and they make no bones about outsourcing. Their work is better than what I found locally at a fraction of the cost. I was referred to them by a friend for their consistent quality, not for their prices. I regard them as a competitive advantage for my practice. They certify and guarantee the materials they provide to be as identified. Any reworking is done quickly at their Seattle location, and with DHL shipping, they are very convenient. I am sure there are other choices out there, but they are a great example of a good organization. The first news I had of the current lead scare was a letter from them assuring me that there was no problem with their work, and reminding me of their standards. Having said all of that, I also use some excellent domestic labs for higher end cosmetic and implant cases, and our fees are able to reflect the differences in those costs.

  • bryon satterfield

    The link provided on you website, “Dental Lab Industry Launches Web Site To Inform Consumers On Lead Scare,” provided by Medical News Today, lists paid sponsors at the bottom, for lab work from China and Mexico. The China ad offers PFM units for $24.95. I appreciate the irony.

  • http://drshlomandassociates.hbnsf.com dr gordon shlom

    the local lab i use, which i sometimes instruct to send to their lab in china because of costs (the quality of work from china seems to be better than the local labs i use by the way) told me that their research has shown that the lead in the crown in question did not come from the lab in china but instead from a lab in the states that added some stain to the existing crown..said stain being the culprit that contained the lead.

    the news media does not usually create accurate news, i have witnessed that in many personal encounters. but it is strange to not hear anyone commenting on this possible source of the lead..

    very interesting if true.

    dr shlom

  • http://www.vorofco.com Kristy Straka

    Mobile dental labs reunite the technician and the importance of communication between dentists, technicians, & patients. Dentists oftentimes would like their technicians to come into the office, custom shade, and /or discuss cases if desired. It’s awful expensive to bring your technician in the office IF THEY ARE IN CHINA !!!

    What is happening in the dental industry? Dentists used to be taught lab techniques in dental school. My niece just graduated from dental school and only had one day of lab training. There is more to making restorations than just
    using a template. Dentists need to embrace their technicians and use their expertise not ship their impressions to China. What happened to supporting our own country?

  • Steven Little

    You are right on the money Kristy. I was a lab technition before entering the dental field. The lack of laboritory experence given in dental school is scary!!! The outsourcing just brings it all to the surface again. In my state the three biggest dental labs also support the dental school and the dental association. They have personally turnned a deaf ear to the subject but now with our dental malpratice insurance writing them a letter saying that they will NOT insure any dentist that knowingly places outsourced crowns things are changing…..FAST!!!

  • WRBATTARBEE

    Is there a list of labs known to be using Chinese labs?

  • Prosthodoc

    Well it ‘s about time such an article made its way into cyber space . There is no real quality control in Chinese dental labs . I am a prosthodontist having recently returned home to Africa after having worked 3 years in the corporate dentistry arena in Florida ( the kind of corporations that have chains of the cookie cutter dental offices in strip malls throughout the state .) That said it follows that such are largely concern with maximizing short term profits and all lab work was sent through a state side broker to China with spotty results leaving most of my (conscientious )colleagues tearing their hair out especially due to poor quality of removable denture work. It became evident to me that these labs hired ‘technicians ‘ that understood the technical aspects of fabricating something out of plastic but had no training nor understand how to apply it to dentistry. Neither could the state side broker communicate prescriptive instructions to the Chinese.
    As far as materials used in the Chinese dental products I have no idea but at the time I was in the US, lead in toys and poison in pet food was raging which was none too comforting to be getting substandard work from China to put in someones mouth . I never told my patients where their work was from for fear of being held liable even though the corporation I worked for gave no alternatives unless one was to spend ones own savings on US labs .
    The problem seems multiple fold : where its true that dental schools in the last decade have reduced prosthetic training to a minimum leaving most grads in the dark over the piece of trash they ‘re putting in someones mouth, most older dentists in the US still operating primarily insurance based practices would never be adequately remunerated by insurance companies to pay the mom & pops state side labs for better work . And the latter DO produce better work . It ‘s difficult to believe what the above replies stating they have found chinese labs do better work than those in the US. That ‘s impossible given the personal attention afforded by a tech that can come over to the office and see what you are talking about ( not to mention speak English ) but I suspect that like a lot of colleagues I worked with out there , if it isnt going in your own mouth and the patient tolerates it AND most important the bottom line is helped not hurt — no one needs to know . Hey, I ‘m not pointing fingers I also sent work to China and could not afford to use my savings to pay local labs (unless the trash from China just was not working out .)
    Incidentally I happened across this site while searching for a dental chair from reputable chinese dental companies that are not fly by night profiteers. Their chairs and equipment LOOK good and are a fraction of the US and European versions however because my training I do plan to have my own dental lab and do my own prosthetic work.

  • Axel Kresin

    Dear Dentist
    i am the vicepresident of Veden Dental Labs in China
    I like to give you some facts about Veden.
    we have been serving as outsourcing labs for over 20 years,
    Countries we work with: 25
    Employies:1500
    Units per day( fixed):6000
    ISO certified,TUV Certified,DAMAS in progress
    Own dental technicianschool ( 285 Students)
    6 European Master Technician supervising the production
    Fabricating both premium line and European & USA standard line.
    To know more about us: http://www.vedenlabs.com

  • anuja

    looking for good ouality dental lab

  • Axel Kresin

    Hello again
    i think that the most doctors have a big concern about quality. Thats ok.Because if you outsource or not you will also find a big range of quality in the US.
    i produce in China i have my own productionline since 2004. Why? Because the standard in china was not good enough.
    Now i am selling my crowns in Germany for 139 Euro.
    If you send to whome ever shure the quality will always go up and down and this is giving you a hard time.
    Stable quality is the key of succsess.
    But if you work with triple trays you always face the problems.
    i have 70 labs in germany who are selling my productsand we have a redo rate of 0,8% over the year because we have a good system. Stabel References are the key to success
    My e-mail is Axel.Kresin@hotmail.de
    you have a question send me a mail
    Thanks

  • jessie

    There are many quality dental labs in China.
    80% of crowns and bridges in Germany are imported from China.
    There are real quality control in Chinese dental labs.
    because these labs know what you dentists want: quality!if there is no quality control, if we don’t use safe material,how we garantee a good product? how we convince our customers? how we expand? how we gain profit?Chinese lab owners are not stupid right?
    It’s true American dentists are more sensitive to price than European customers.
    meco_dent@yahoo.com

  • Marsdentallab

    Mars has been providing unique money-saving dental outsourcing solutions to the dental communities oversea since 2007. Our dental restorations are proven to be aesthetically and mechanically superior while staying parameters prescribed by our clients and very economical to enhance their dental business.

    Mars Dental Lab is a ISO Certificated Dantal Lab. We have CDT techinicians on site to quality control our dental restorations and our headquarter is based in New Jersey USA. We specialized in doing the outsourceing business with oversea dental labs in USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, UK etc.

    We strive to help lab partners to explore their local markets, saving energy and cost without sacrificing the quality. Check out our products and see how we can save your dental practice money without any loss of Quality. In fact, most materials and equipment is the same like in the western countries because in the world are just a few dental materials suppliers.
    Call Us Today at 732-645-2525.
    Or email to marsdentallab@gmail.com
    We love to hear from you.

  • larry haggerty

    Hi I am looking for information on dental tchnition schools . I have been searching but i am not having a lot of luck . If someone could point me in the right direction it would be of great help .

    Thankyou very much

  • Jane

    Yes, at present, many Europe and American dental lab. want outsource their job to China. But they can not differ their right partner which can provide good quality with competitive price.
    Now i dealing with all works from European market in our Lab. I can say both time and quality can be sured.
    If any one interested, can contact me
    my mail-address: janehu2008@yahoo.cn
    cell phone: 15919949446

  • george

    This is what’s killing this country…You people are blind…People made a really good living owning a lab….Now,everyone is cutting each others throat over price,forcing people to send to china & mexico…Don’t you people get it….Instead of sticking together,you people are fighting with one over price While
    THE DOCTORS GET RICH……..They still get their 800 to 1,400 or more in some city’s….So by sending it out of the country,your killing this field & Making the doctors Really RICH>>>>>>The DOCTORS NEED TO BE EXPOSED,,,LET THE PUBLIC KNOW WHAT CROWNS & DENTURES REALLY COST….

  • buy websites

    Nice post! Keep adding more posts as I will be back to look for more information in helping me with my term research project.

  • Kai Schoch

    We have a cooperation with a chinese laboratory since 2005 and deliver in Germany, high-quality dentures at half a price.

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