Recession Survival Guide for Dental Labs

The looming threat of a recession has been the topic of conversation for what seems like an eternity, with no official declaration in sight. The rising inflation has put immense pressure on businesses, including dental labs, to stay afloat and safeguard their profits. 

But, with the right strategies in place, it is possible for dental labs to weather the storm and emerge even stronger.  

In this blog, we will look at some of the insights shared by Scott Emett, the owner of Digital Concepts and well-known dental lab consultant, during a recent lab-to-lab webinar series. 


Scott Emett’s Journey in Dentistry 

Scott’s journey in dentistry began in 1977 when his best friend, who was a dentist, offered to sponsor his country music band in exchange for Scott working at his dental practice for a few months.  

During this time, Scott learned a lot about dentistry and fell in love with the field, particularly the intricate details involved in making teeth.  

“To my surprise, I ended up staying with him and pursuing a career in dentistry. Working alongside him, I was able to learn a lot in a short amount of time and I was impressed by his skills as a dentist. Even today, he continues to practice dentistry and is an amazing practitioner.” Scott shares. 

Over the years, Scott has built a successful dental lab, Digital Concepts, and has been helping other dental labs to succeed through his study clubs and social media presence. 


Recession and Indicators 

A recession is usually defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. Given that kind of definition, the US is technically considered experiencing a recession. However, the government defers to elite academics at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to make the official call. 

Every case of economic circumstances is unique, and there is no predetermined threshold that must be met before a recession is proclaimed, according to the NBER. 

The RPI and employment, however, have been the two variables that the NBER claims have received the most weight in recent years. This is possibly the reason the bureau formally declared a recession to last from February 2020 to April 2020. The unemployment rate rose to 14.7% in April 2020. Fortunately, unemployment fell significantly after that, and since then, there hasn’t been a recession. 

It has been widely discussed that a recession might be coming for some time. Those discussions only became more heated after the U.S. saw two straight quarters of negative GDP growth.  

Running a dental lab during these downturns can be challenging. “We’re all in business, and no matter what happens or how long it lasts, we have to survive.” Scott says. Fortunately, compared to historical averages, which range from 17 to 20 months, current recessions are typically shorter, lasting closer to 10 months. 


The Importance of Communication 

One of the key things that Scott emphasizes is communication. “I coach a few labs and always talk about communication. We want to be in a conversation with our larger accounts and have something going on with them.” he says. 

One usual point of concern is raising fees. Dentists and labs need to raise fees to cover inflation costs and there are employees who deserve a raise. But if there’s communication, clients and customers are more likely to agree to it.  

“You don’t want your invoice to come as a shock. Always be in touch with them (customers)” Scott advises. 


The Role of Social Media 

Social media plays an important role in helping dental labs stay ahead of the curve. By following the right sources, dental lab owners and technicians can stay updated on the latest trends and developments in the industry, as well as connect with their peers and share their own insights and experiences.  

Scott uses social media to share his own thoughts and insights on dentistry, as well as to highlight the latest innovations and techniques that can help dental labs succeed.  

“I do social media just to try to put maybe a little pearl out there that might say, ‘hey had you thought of this or this is what’s going on in dentistry right now’ and sometimes, I bring in things that are not necessarily clinical or technical but more like something that helps their life.” Scott says. 


On Increasing Efficiency 

Surprisingly, there are a number of ways to smoothen workflows and increase efficiency for labs out there. There’s a multitude of strategies so businesses don’t have to compromise their output with less cost. 

Scott mentions, “Once you increase your efficiency it means that you can do a lot more work with the people and the equipment that you have or you’re doing the work that you’re doing at way less cost.” 

Scott advises identifying bottlenecks in your production. For example, most smaller labs have one or two steamers. “I recommend a pod of 3 technicians in a small area that takes very little travel from a steamer to a sandblaster.” The steamer, blaster, sink, handpieces, vacuum, 2 kinds of handpieces and supplies are needed to keep a production rolling.  

With this easy, ergonomic setting, the speed of production goes up and the quality goes up as well because the technician has everything needed right at their fingertips.  

Simple things like remodeling your physical lab can be huge. If your technician can just scoot three feet on his chair to use the sandblaster, then rinse, steam, and back to either contouring with a handpiece or glazing with a porcelain furnace and never stand up, they will save tons of time.  

Not having to get up and walk across the lab means they will blast and steam more often as needed instead of putting it off because they don’t want to take the time to go across the lab to the right machine. 

While efficiency can mean a big blanket term for all things that can be done, one proven way to do this is to embark on the digital space in dentistry. “Currently, the dental industry is in a digital age and incorporating digital technology into the workflow can save time and increase efficiency.” He says. 


Final Thoughts 

The dental industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession, but with the right strategies in place, it is possible for dental labs to weather the storm and emerge even stronger.  

Scott cautions on panicking, cutting prices and experimenting with new products. The last thing you need is to incur debts with untested strategies. “As we start into this recession, which everybody says is going to happen, don’t go into debt. The hardest thing is to have a payment to make and not have the money. So do what you’re doing without incurring debt right now.” Scott says. 

To watch the whole discussion, just click here. To help you brace for the downturns, Evident is here to help. 

At Evident, you may find comprehensive digital dental solutions, including software, hardware, and individualized support. By offering specialized digital solutions that are tailored to your particular needs and enable you to scale at your own speed. Weather the economic downturns and emerge victorious with Evident, your digital dental guide.  

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