Biting Down on Dental Labs

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For more than 20 years Thomas Wester has worked as a certified dental lab technician making crowns, bridges and dentures, but not all dental techs are certified, and Wester says that puts patients at risk.

"If you really don't know what you're doing then you're setting that patient up for a lot of problems down the road."

There are several dental laboratories in Tallahassee, but not all of them have certified technicians on hand. The Dental Lab Association wants to require at least one certified dental technician in every lab.

Guaranteed certification and education is the hope for the Dental Lab Association and Rep. Stan Jordan agrees guaranteed certification and education is necessary, but says more needs to be done including requiring dentists tell their patients where their dental devices were made and what materials they're made of.

"If you get a Snickers bar, on the side of it it'll tell you what's in it. If you have a neck tie, flip it over and it'll tell you made in Costa Rica, but if you have something in your mouth there is no info to the patient, and the dentist does not share it, and many times the dentist does not know what the composition is, and we need to fix that."

Glynn Watts co-owns a dental lab in town and says more and more dentists are turning to offshore labs.

"Sometimes doctors are boxing up their impressions and sending them offshore and they're getting them made for like 39 or 40 dollars, where in the U.S. they can be made for 150 to 350 to 400 dollars."

The Florida Dental Association agrees patients need protection, but says if the current bills were to pass the industry would see increased health care costs and hardships for small labs.

They also say more certification is unnecessary because they don't recognize an industry-wide problem with laboratories. With another two and a half weeks in session, that's something lawmakers will have to sink their teeth into.