New Dental Marketing Trend: Buying Dead Celebrity Teeth?

New Dental Marketing Trend: Buying Dead Celebrity Teeth -Image Edmonton JournalWhen it comes to dental marketing, can purchasing celebrity teeth bring dentists more dental patients?

It would seem that one dentist may think so.

Canadian dentist Michael Zuk has once again made headlines with his $10,000 purchase of a crown once belonging to Elvis Presley.

The first time this dentist made news was when he paid $31,000 for a rotten tooth that belonged to John Lennon.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the Elvis crown was fashioned by Memphis dentist Henry Weiss for the King, who had a talent for chipping his teeth by banging them against microphones.

The family of the late Dr. Henry Weiss called Dr. Zuk to alert him that they were seeking a buyer for the dental crown after reading how Zuk had previously purchased Lennon’s bicuspid, which the dentist hopes will be recognized by the Guinness World Records as the most money paid for a human tooth.

It would seem that collecting teeth is not the only celebrity obsession Dr. Zuk admits to. In the past, the dentist has also purchased a piece of one of Elvis Presley’s scarves, a lock of Marilyn Monroe’s hair, the signature of Woody Woodpecker cartoonist Walter Lantz, and autographed pictures of musician Gene Simmons and Gilligan’s Island star Bob Denver, reports the Sun.

Zuk displays the items at his dental practice, with the exception of John Lennon’s tooth, which he keeps locked up elsewhere for safety reasons. Dentist Zuk told the Sun, “I don’t trust leaving it around. People steal my newspaper. Anybody who would steal your newspaper would steal one of John Lennon’s teeth.”

It is possible that Dr. Zuk is one brilliant dental marketer.

He once hired the actor who played the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld to do a dental commercial for him, to growl, “No tooth for you!” at the end of his commercial piece.

For more on this story see: Alberta Dentist Proud Owner of the King’s ‘Crown’

Dental Labs: Lead Content a Prescription for Disaster

Chinese Labs in Hot Water After Dental Crowns Found to Contain Lead

“Yeah doc, my lab uses nothing but the best materials.”

Indulge me for a moment in listening in on an imaginary conversation between a dentist and dental lab manager.

“I’ve heard some scary news about dental crowns made in China that are contaminated with lead. Since your dental lab is located in the US, I can just assume the crowns are made in the US, right?” asks the uncertain dentist.

“Yeah doc, I use nothing but the best materials!” the dental lab replies. “You’ve always trusted me to give you true art, I’m an artist, right?”

“Yeah, you’re a great artist,” agrees the dentist. “But are you sure your products are safe?”

“Just trust me,” insists the dental lab. “And trust me, I have that insurance thing you asked for, what did you say it was, an insurance binder? Oh, plus products liability insurance? And I’ll get that 510k FDA filing to you right away. You’ve got nothing to worry about, I’m the best.”

After a week without receiving documentation, the doctor follows up.

“No, I’m not sending you insurance thing,” scoffs the dental lab. “That would be an invasion of my privacy. Besides, you’re the doctor! You put the crown in, so you own it. Anyhow, I don’t have the time to document my processes and I’m not sure how to do a manufacturing map, but who needs it? What I do is ART!”

Trust me: If you go with Joe’s Super-Quality Basement Dental Lab, this is what you’ll get.

Which dental labs send work to foreign countries?

The answer? A lot more than you might think!

Fifteen to 20% of crowns in the US are manufactured elsewhere. I estimate 25% of American dentists may be using products made in Chinese dental labs – and many of them do not know it.

That’s why it’s no longer good enough to take your dental lab’s word for it. As a dentist, you should foster a strong relationship with your dental lab. Know the people, know the facilities, know the products – and know the right questions to ask. (As in, “Are all your products manufactured in the US? What safety precautions do you have in place?”)

The first thing you need to know is that many US dental labs outsource work to China and other countries. Even if you got a product through a US-based dental lab, you cannot just assume it was manufactured in the USA.

Secondly, large dental lab chains are particularly likely to send work to Chinese labs. Manufacturing costs can be as little as one-tenth as those at US labs, and big companies can save a tremendous amount of money via this lower-cost production. Some dental labs do their own manufacturing, while others are are simply brokers or aggregators who offer sales and distribution.

Name some names already!

DENTSPLY opened an FDA registered dental laboratory—Prident—in China in 2006. The dental laboratory materials used there are the same materials cleared by the FDA, supplied by DENTSPLY and sold to its US laboratory customers.

Dent-USA, despite what the name may suggest, is in fact the largest dental laboratory in China. Needless to say, its products are sold and marketed in the US. Their website stresses that they provide products that are FDA-approved. (In Germany, the company goes by German-Dent.)

Trident Dental Laboratories is one of the top dental labs in the US. Though the company is based in California, I have it on good authority that they also own a lab in China. This fact is not mentioned on their website.

Let me be clear: None of these labs are accused of any wrongdoing. In fact, only two dental crowns (actually, one was a bridge) have tested positive for lead. More testing is needed to determine the scope of this problem. But there are two things we can be sure of:

  1. Any lead in dental prostheses is too much lead.
  2. The vast majority of dental prostheses manufactured in China are perfectly safe.

Oh, and don’t let me forget the most important thing! When it comes to dental labs, due diligence is the dentist’s responsibility.

Whose responsibility is it to protect the public from tainted dental lab work?

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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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Friday Random Video: Grumpy Vampire Visits Dentist

Friday Random Video: Grumpy Vampire Visits DentistToday’s Friday random video for dentists features a grumpy vampire who has a toothache and makes an appointment with a dentist, who promptly places a gold crown on his main fang.

He is tempted to bite the sexy dentist, and tries to go for her after she fits the gold crown on his tooth, to somewhat disastrous results.

The video short titled, “Vampire’s Crown” was produced at the University of Hertfordshire by Henry Mountain, Hiren Solanki and Nick Hughes.

Enjoy! It’s a fun 3 minutes —

Dentistry Goes Punk with Tooth Tattoos

Dental Crowns For the Alternative Crowd

Unlike traditional tattoos, tooth tattoos can be removed in two minutes. The personalized design is baked into the crown’s enamel, and can even be placed on the tooth’s inside surface for a particularly private tattoo. Designs range from patriotic to floral to tribal and beyond.

Visit www.toothtattoo.com for more information…

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