COVID-19 and Offshore Dental Work
During the course of 2020, there has been considerable discussion in different publications in the dental market about offshore dental laboratory work.
The American Dental Association in an ADA News article covered this topic for its membership this summer.
The coverage of this topic started when a number of Chinese dental laboratories were shut down in the first quarter of 2020 in order to control further spread of the virus. This shutdown resulted in global supply chain interruptions within the dental supply chain. For several months, work that had been outsourced to China was interrupted, and had to be fulfilled either by dental laboratories in the U.S. or by laboratories in other countries.
What’s in Your Mouth conducted a recent interview with Travis Zick, Apex Dental Laboratory Group on this topic. The points Travis raises are important for both dentists and dental patients to be more informed about offshore dental work.
What are the prevailing issues related to offshore work (recognizing that it’s here to stay, and it does offer a business option to meet certain dental client demands)?
The biggest source of continued frustration is the lack of either self-enforced or required transparency.
In the U.S. only 11 states require disclosure of patient contact material composition and point of origin (where a dental crown, denture, implant or other restorative or cosmetic restoration was made) to dentists.
That means that in 39 states, dental laboratories don’t have to tell the doctor what’s in their crowns, or where they were made! Although labs are considered medical device manufacturers, they are generally exempt from registering with the U.S. FDA, so, in reality, there is little to no oversight of labs, at the state or federal level.
The ADA House passed a resolution in 2013 urging all state dental boards to require lab registration. Since then, Washington is the only state that has passed legislation,
and that demanded a great deal of effort and leadership and collaboration between the Washington State Dental Association and the Washington State Dental Lab Association. The ADA also has policy stating that the laboratory should inform the dentist of material content and any subcontracting lab used to produce their restorations.
Has the pandemic exacerbated the problem at all?
The pandemic has brought some recent light to this problem. In early February 2020, most of the large labs in China were forced to close due to the COVID-19 outbreak. One very large U.S. “lab” sent an email to their dental clients on February 6 letting them know their cases were going to be delayed a month. For most of their clients, that email was the first time they were ever told their work was done in China.
It is time for a nationwide focus for transparency and disclosure from lab to dentist, and the dentist to the patient. More than ever, in today’s COVID-19 world, dentists and patients have a right to know.
About the Author:
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
APEX Dental Laboratory Group
Travis is Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Apex Dental Laboratory Group, a multi-laboratory holding company based out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin with 11 labs in 5 states. Travis oversees all Merger & Acquisition activity, including diligence, structure and integration. After earning his Finance degree from Winona State University, Travis worked as a financial analyst and commercial banker before becoming involved in the lab business. Travis has served as a transition consultant for lab owners looking to prepare their business for succession, and he has spoken and written several articles on the topic. Travis was on the NADL Board of Directors and served as President in 2019. In addition, he serves on NADL’s Business Management Committee and Budget & Finance Committee.