Inside Dental Technology
Your Voice, Your Advocate
Social media portals are alive with activity related to dental laboratory technology. Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook’s DLT page, Dentaltown, and the Internet Dental Forum have been abuzz during the last few months with discussions focusing on where the dental technology industry is headed and whether or not the outcomes will be positive.
The NADL has joined the online conversation with their “What’s in Your Mouth” public awareness campaign. This column will address some of the most common questions the NADL has encountered since launching What’s In Your Mouth.
Q: Is the purpose of the NADL public awareness campaign to clean up the import market and make importers comply with FDA standards?
A: This is not the goal of the What’s In Your Mouth campaign. The goal of the WIYM is to raise awareness among dentists and patients about dental restorations, what is in them (regardless of where they come from), and to highlight the value of a comprehensively educated and trained dental technician.
Having to compete with lower priced imports is not unique to the dental device industry as most industries now face lower-priced foreign competition. In order to survive, domestic dental laboratories need to make dentists aware of other important information relevant to their purchasing decision. Those industries that have not successfully done this and have allowed the purchasing decision to be based solely on sale price have not fared well.
The communication of non-price information—such as turn-around times, service, communication, reliability, safety, etc.—is integral to the domestic dental laboratories’ ability to compete with foreign laboratories. However, the importance of accurate material content information cannot be overstated.
For example, a crown made of high noble alloys is unlikely to be able to compete favorably with a crown made with base noble alloy or base metals if the only information the purchaser has to base the decision on is price. Accurate materials content information is essential to help level the playing field and allow for fair competition. Accurate materials content information is also essential to the dentist’s ability to protect their dental patients’ health and safety.
As a side note, looking at US Customs data over the last three years, the amount of imported dental laboratory restorations has actually begun to decline. Correspondingly, NADL market research indicates that “impact” of offshore activity in terms of affecting business for domestic dental laboratories has also been declining.
Q: Won’t enacting more controls over imported goods increase costs for the government, thereby adding to the cost of working and doing business in the US?
A: A foreign laboratory’s cost of doing business in the US has increased because they are now required to pay an annual registration fee to the FDA of $3,200. This practice began in October 2013. Imported restorations are also subject to the federal medical device excise tax. Domestic laboratories that do not import are not, in most cases, required to register with the FDA and have no corresponding fees.
Q: Where is the NADL going with this campaign?
A: To get full disclosure of materials content. Accurate patient contact material disclosure is essential to help level the playing field and allow for fair competition. Disclosure is not just about foreign restorations; it applies to domestic restorations as well. Accurate materials content information is essential to the foster the dentist’s ability to protect their dental patients’ health and safety and ensure the best material choice for that case was provided.
Q: Patients will still be in no position to choose better treatment device options even after more public awareness. Better laboratories and dentists won’t get more traction, or necessarily more business. If we can't reverse the current trend focusing on lower priced restoration, what's the point?
A: The main point of the campaign is to increase dentist and patient awareness of the importance of taking information other than price into account. Dental laboratories can maximize their market share by effectively communicating both the tangible and intangible things they do to differentiate themselves. This campaign can help show that a restoration is not just a commodity.