Real talk: communicating with your dental technician

Luke Barnett considers the benefits of excellent communication between dentist and technician

The more that technicians and dentists can communicate, the better that they can understand each other’s roles. As you can tell, I have been considering the traditional theme of dentist-technician communication. I believe that all of us can benefit, if, from time to time, we take a step back and look at our working relationships and how they can be improved.

I have always said that the relationship between clinician and technician should be that of a partnership – we can both learn from one another. We can only deliver the best results to our patients if we work as a team and pool our knowledge and shared experience.

Digital communication

Nowhere is this truer than in the field of aesthetic and cosmetic dentistry. I’d begin by saying that, in an ideal world, the patient would visit the laboratory for a consultation. By doing this, we can achieve the most accurate reproduction of natural dentition.

But, we don’t live in an ideal world, so there are still other factors that I think will make for the best possible conclusion. We need to talk about the case in question at every stage. The more closely that we work, the better the understanding that will develop and the better the final result.

Dialogue is essential for a good long-term working relationship and the technician should be considered as another member of your dental team.

The modern world has made keeping in touch so easy. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Messenger – these can now be used on phone or tablet.

I am sure that many of you reading this are active users of social media, whether that be in a personal capacity, or I hope, in promoting your business. You may be aware that one of the central tenets of being successful on social media is to enter into a conversation.

Too many businesses and people on Twitter, Facebook et al seem to be set to only ‘transmit’. Every hour they will remind you that they have a super half-price offer and you really cannot miss it.

Of course, all these posts are automated and if you were to try and enter into some kind of more meaningful discussion, I doubt that you’d get far. There is no human connection and ultimately if social media is carried out in this way, it is doomed to failure. And so is any relationship between clinician and technician.

Digital communication is on the march more generally – it is not just about accurate substructures anymore. Digital smile design continues to grow unabated. We continue to invest heavily in 3D printing and state-of-the-art milling equipment.

We are able to accept STL files from dentists and other laboratories – open source via Dropbox is an exciting prospect as it allows everyone to share files. Ultimately, digital intraoral scanning may eventually even lead to the end of impressions (perhaps some way off).   


Technicians and dentists need to invest time, effort and (unfortunately) money in dental photography. If it isn’t possible for the patient to visit the lab for shade matching, then this becomes even more crucial. Attend a course if appropriate and ensure that you can take well-lit, crystal clear photographs.

Make sure that you know your camera well and the settings are correct for each picture. A good place to start would be the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry website where you can download guidelines for photography. Once the pictures are taken, social media is a great way to share them.

When considering anterior work and smile design, bear in mind options such as short- and long-term orthodontics and soft and hard tissue changes, which can make all the difference to the final outcome. Composite can be an option but for the long term, porcelain crown and bridgework is hard to beat.

It is a sign of modern times that many of today’s patients are interested in a quick fix – as clinicians and technicians, we have a duty to make them aware of the drawbacks of such an approach. Make sure that the lab dockets you are using give enough space to relay all of the case details.

This is vital in larger cases but in any case, the more information that we have, the better. Take the time to relate this to us and we can deliver what the patient desires first time.

I will (of course) mention accurate models! Ensure that the laboratory that you are working with is using a high-quality model-making system such as the Pindex, Girrbach or Zeiser. Any case should begin with accurate models.

A relationship

I hasten to add that this improved communication and demand for more information is now likely to be driven by the modern patient. They can, and have every right to be, very demanding and only by working closely together, will dentist and technician be able to satisfy their demands for perfection.

I would also like to point out that you are likely to end up with a friend. It is certainly not unusual for me to consider many of my clients to be friends – I consider it a privilege to work closely with such motivated clinicians.

The alliance between a dental technician and dentist is truly a relationship, and benefits from all the good things that brings, as well as, occasionally, the detrimental ones!

This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of Aesthetic Dentistry Today. Read more articles like this in Aesthetic Dentistry Today and gain three hours’ verifiable CPD with every issue. Click here to subscribe or call 01923 851 777. Get in touch via Twitter @AesDenToday or

Luke Barnett

Luke Barnett

Author at Aesthetic Dentistry Today

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