A dental laboratory setup is a lab bench with specialized equipment and tools, where a dentist or dental technician makes or adjusts dental appliances like crowns and implants. A dental lab can be as simple as a desk with a few tools for making adjustments or it can be a fully digital enterprise with all the advanced equipment dental providers may use, including scanners, CAD/CAM software, milling and casting machines and 3D printers.
Whether you have a single lab workstation in your dental office or run a high-tech commercial operation complete with the latest in digital technology and machines, being well-equipped with high-quality dental lab equipment is key to maintaining the health and productivity of the technicians and other dental professionals who work there.
A recent article in Dental Products Report details how dental labs have been experiencing employee recruitment and retainment challenges due to pandemic-related workplace upheaval and economic uncertainty. For dental lab techs, working in an environment where high-quality equipment demonstrates that their safety and ergonomic concerns are a priority can contribute to their overall well being and job satisfaction. Additionally, a lab workstation with features that help them keep their dental equipment and tools organized contributes greatly to more efficient workflows and higher productivity.
In this article, we will discuss, in order of importance, ten must-haves you should look for when purchasing dental lab equipment, including:
- Integrated dust collector with on-demand suction
- Color correct LED task lighting
- Powder-coated steel construction
- Two case pan shelves within easy reach
- Retractable air gun
- Integrated gas line
- Removable arm rests and adjustable stool
- Adjustable magnifying lens for safety shield/scoop
- Durable nonporous work surface
- Integrated tool and materials storage
Essential equipment for your dental laboratory setup
The most vital must-haves for your dental lab workstation help ensure a healthy and efficient lab that will last for years.
Integrated dust collection
An integrated dust collector is the most important piece of equipment for your dental laboratory setup, as it keeps the work area clean and prevents inhalation of particulates generated during grinding. DENATALEZ’s Nevin Workstations feature an integrated dust collection system that allows the user to control the volume of dust collection and choose manual or on-demand suction. On-demand suction automatically starts when the lab handpiece (micromotor) starts and stops a few seconds after the handpiece stops, so the unit is not accidentally left running. Its control panel includes indicator lights that monitor the performance of the filter bag and dust collector motor.
Color correct LED task light
Another piece of equipment critical to a healthy and productive dental laboratory is true color correct lighting over the workstation. Color correct lighting enables the dentist or technician to correctly match the shade of a prosthesis to the patient’s natural tooth shade without eye strain. According to the color rendering index (CRI), a CRI of 90 or above (on a scale of 0-100) is similar to natural sunlight and therefore the best for shade matching. DENTALEZ’s Nevin Workstations feature 93 CRI color correct LED task lighting that delivers 10,000+ hours of cooler, true color correct light.
Powder-coated steel construction
Dental labs are wet and dusty environments, which means dental laboratory equipment needs to withstand a lot of abuse. Inexpensive dental lab workstations ordered online or cobbled together from a big box store are most often made of plastic laminate over fiberboard or wood. These materials simply can’t withstand the wear and tear that most lab environments dish out. They tend to warp from moisture, causing drawers to become stuck, and show even superficial nicks and scratches. By contrast, a dental laboratory setup made of 100% powder-coated steel can stand up to harsh lab conditions, providing 15-20 years of hassle-free use.
Ergonomic dental laboratory equipment
The next group of must-haves for your dental lab workstation help to provide an environment that is ergonomically sound and free of equipment-related distractions so dentists and lab technicians can work quickly and productively.
Two case pan shelves within easy reach
One problem that causes bottlenecks in the workflow of a dental lab is clutter caused by lack of space to store cases that are in progress. Having two case pan shelves located at eye level and within arm’s reach eliminates clutter on the work surface. Technicians stay organized and have as much usable work surface as possible.
Retractable air gun
Another issue dental lab techs face when trying to keep a productive workspace is the tangle of hoses and cords that can result from piecemeal additions of air-driven dental equipment to their lab bench. Constantly having to untangle and reroute hoses in order to work adds time to each case. DENTALEZ’s Ergotech Self-Contained Workstations eliminate tangles with an integrated OSHA-compliant air blowgun (with regulator) that retracts when not in use.
Integrated gas line
Like the retractable air gun, DENTALEZ’s workstations feature an integrated gas line that also helps create a clean and ergonomically healthy workstation with lots of knee space. Dental lab equipment with built-in features that keep workspaces clear contributes to improved workflows and productivity.
Removable arm rests and an adjustable stool
Movable and removable arm rests (included in all of DENTALEZ’s workstations) put the user in the proper ergonomic position and take the strain off of their wrists and forearms, reducing the risk of repetitive motion injuries. Additionally, DENTALEZ’s Simplicity stool features five casters for improved stability during position changes. It is available in three upholstery types and over 30 colors.
Helpful dental lab equipment for your office
The final group in our top ten must-haves for a dental lab workstation rounds out our list with features that produce a high-quality organized and productive workspace.
Adjustable magnifying lens
A built-in adjustable magnifier that sits over the face shield and dust collector, or scoop, eliminates the need to have a separate magnifying lens with a base taking up valuable space within the work area. DENTALEZ’s Nevin workstations feature a 2.5x magnifying lens on an articulating hinge built right over the scoop. Users can simply flip it up when it’s not needed and down when it is.
Durable nonporous work surface
Dental equipment with a laminated work surface can become damaged by tools and machines used in a dental lab, such as a handpiece, casting machine or milling machine. Scratches and dents in the surface are not only unsightly, but also can allow moisture and potentially contaminated liquids to enter the structure. DENTALEZ uses a variety of durable workstation top materials, with the Corian solid surface being most popular. This half-inch solid surface hides scratches and imperfections and more importantly, doesn’t absorb liquids.
Integrated tool and materials storage
DENTALEZ’s Nevin workstations contain enough integrated storage space to house all of your dental lab equipment, including articulator systems, the electric handpieces dental lab techs use, as well as all other tools and materials.
Advanced machines and equipment dental labs use
Apart from our list of the ten must-haves for dental lab workstations, digital dentistry has been evolving over the last few decades and has finally started to see widespread interest and adoption by general dentists. While DENTALEZ does not sell these dental machines, we do provide high-quality cabinetry and design services to accommodate all of it in your dental laboratory setup.
TIP: Visit our previous article, Dos and Don’ts for your Dental Lab Workstation, for advice on planning out your dental lab space, including suggestions for an “ideal” lab layout.
Computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems allow dentists and lab technicians to build a single finished prosthetic such as a zirconia or porcelain crown. They will first make a virtual impression using an intraoral scanner or desktop lab scanner and import it into the software, where they will then design the restoration and send it to a milling machine or 3D printer. An article in Dental Economics offers tips on how to choose the right CAD/CAM design software.
Dental milling machines use wet or dry methods to mill, or cut, restorations out of milling pucks or blocks made of dental zirconia, porcelain body, metal alloys, resins and waxes. Once the restoration is fully created, a dentist or lab technician must use a handpiece to remove it from the puck, a process known as green finishing. DENTALEZ’s Nevin Labs provides dental equipment for an ideal green finishing station.
The newest of the digital dentistry technologies, 3D printers build dental implants, crowns, study models, surgical guides and clear aligners in minutes using resins, wax or composite. 3D printers have a distinct advantage over milling machines for smaller dental labs and practices in that they are much less expensive to acquire. According to this 2021 Dentistry Today article, ongoing innovations in materials continue to increase the quality of permanent restorations.
The benefits of investing in high-quality equipment for your dental laboratory setup are that an ergonomically sound and well-equipped workstation increases your productivity and quality of work. Our top ten must-haves for a well-equipped workstation include an integrated dust collector, color correct LED task lighting, powder-coated steel construction, two case pan shelves, a retractable air gun, an integrated gas line, removable arm rests, an adjustable magnifying lens, a durable nonporous work surface and integrated tool and materials storage.
DENTALEZ’s Nevin dental lab workstations ship 90% assembled, pre-piped for gas and air, and pre-wired for electricity so that users can be productive from day one. They are manufactured in the United States and are both ETL and UL certified. This is not necessarily true for inexpensive lab benches from overseas. Money saved during that initial online purchase can be quickly eroded if an electrical inspector requires that they be brought up to United States’ ETL/UL code. High-quality lab equipment from DENTALEZ avoids this liability, ultimately saving you money. For more details, please contact us.