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House urges interaction between dental schools, labs to meet future needs

Orlando, Fla.—The House of Delegates is encouraging U.S. dental schools to interact with U.S. dental laboratories and encouraging dental laboratory technicians to be presenters at continuing education seminars, according to resolutions passed at this year’s annual session.

Resolution 69H-2010 states the American Dental Association will encourage all U.S. dental schools to use dental labs in the United States for students' restorative prostheses instead of sending the prescription abroad. The ADA believes the students’ education would be enhanced by interaction with local dental labs.

"I think we have a concern that by eliminating the interaction and the educational value of having dental students working directly with master technicians that the quality of the overall educational process of dental students will be diminished," said Dr. Bill D'Aiuto, chair of the Subcommittee on the Future of Dental Laboratory Technology and a member of the Council on Dental Practice. "Learning how to communicate with dental laboratory technicians is essential for their professional success."

CDP formed the subcommittee at its October 2009 meeting to examine significant issues facing the dental lab industry.

The resolution also encourages dental schools to use their own in-house dental labs whenever possible in order to facilitate the interaction between students and dental lab technicians. The ADA is also encouraging dental schools to combine their dental education programs with dental lab technology programs whenever dental lab technology programs are located within commuting distance of the dental school. The programs or curriculum could include dental morphology/occlusion, prosthetic design and fabrication, waxing, casting, surveying of study casts and incorporation of CAD/CAM technology.

The resolution, proposed by CDP, is in response to a concern about a significant decline in the number of independent accredited dental lab technology programs. The number of Commission on Dental Accreditation-accredited dental lab technology programs has decreased from 58 in the mid 1980s to 20 today.

CDP is also keeping an eye on the trend toward offshore outsourcing, which puts competitive pressure on U.S. labs and causes concerns about domestic dental prosthetic production.

Res. 68H-2010 amends the current policy "Support of the Dental Laboratory Technician Certification Program and Continuing Education Activities." The House added a sentence that encourages dental technicians to attend the appropriate continuing education seminars as presenters.

The ADA and other interested stakeholders have spent the past several years meeting, discussing and brainstorming ways to make the dental laboratory industry better.

Many groups are dedicated to achieving the ultimate goal of fostering better communication between dentists and dental lab technicians. CDP believes the interaction between the two groups is one of the most critical issues facing the dental lab industry.

"We see, as a council and as an ADA House, the long-term value in rekindling this working relationship, starting in the dental schools," Dr. D'Aiuto said. "It's vital to the care of the American people."