Make your in-house Dental Lab a production zone, not a bottleneck!

First, let me start off by saying the dental lab is not your sterilization area. The “lab” in a typical dental practice is ideally designed to handle pouring up models, fabricating simple removables such as whitening trays and essix retainers to the more complicated and articulated cases and full mouth wax ups. It is also common to see dentists investing in milling units and 3-D printers to keep some third party lab bills to a minimum while offering crown prep to seat in one visit. The lab is the place for organizing cases going to the lab and those returning from the lab. Without your lab, where would you store all those study models for five years?

There are only about 3% of dentists nationally who have an in-house full-service dental lab. Why? Well, if you’re reading this, you already know. It’s expensive and takes up space – a hot commodity in many practices. Some dentists do not have the extra square footage needed to pour models, much less mill solid zirconia crowns. These docs send everything to a lab – from alginate impressions to, yes, even whitening trays.

But for those who do…….

First, a good lab tracking system is critical. Check out a blog I wrote last year, “9 Smart Ways To Improve Your Dental Lab Case Management System”

But what about the space itself?

Productivity – the effectiveness of productive effort; as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.” Designing the lab of your dental practice must be thought out in these terms and must have its own dedicated space. I have seen a lot over the years traveling to dental practices. Some practices have shared a break room with the lab. There’s nothing like a little lab dust on my jelly filled donut! Can someone say, “hashtag – I think I just threw up in my mouth?”

Courtesy of Dentaltown.

What sort of things will you perform in your dental lab?

  • Pour models
  • Trimming models.
  • Polishing Dentures
  • Milling crowns
  • 3-D printing for
  • Pressure cooking
  • Sand blasting
  • Adjusting acrylics
  • Fabricating whitening Trays
  • Staining and Glazing milled crowns

Performing lab duties such as these requires the investment of some small equipment and counter surface to accommodate. Depending on the brand and model of this equipment, you may need to consider a compressed air line for an air abrasion unit, pressure pot and a Mini Star ™ to name a few. If a stand alone air line is also desired, consider plumbing more than one line of compressed air. PLEASE don’t forget about power.

Whether you realize it or not, the flow of your in-house dental lab matters. At Reboot Practice Productivity Training, I address the flow of your lab. Much like the sterilization process, your lab should have a flow – from dirty to clean. For example, it is not logical to store cases ready to be delivered (in a patient’s mouth) above your cast grinder, right?

Speaking as a clinician and clinical trainer, the lab matters. It is not just frivolously thrown into a floorplan. Like every other space in your practice, the lab serves a purpose. It’s design should be intentional. Consider the infrastructure of your utilities. Whatever you intend to do in the lab – now or in the future – should be considered.

To see more amazing labs, visit

I am a dental assistant who spent some time in the lab. In addition to working chairside and putting the needs of the patient first, it was my responsibility to find time to pour models, trim them and fabricate whitening trays and retainers. It was my responsibility to make sure lab cases were managed. Let’s just say I know what it feels like to be the last one in the office at night.

If you feel trapped in your existing lab configuration, there is hope. Maybe I can help you go from worse to better – and build a plan for the best. There are a number of ways to improve your lab design, from creating a more efficient layout to adding a few critical storage and organizational pieces. Lucky for you, our team of dental office designers, equipment manufacturers and clinical trainers have a really big arsenal. And I can help you target pain points, walk you through solutions, and get you set up for efficient and productive flow! You know how to reach me. If not, write a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Author Angie Bachman