10 Ways to Increase Your Productivity in the Dental Lab
Working as a Dental Lab Technician can feel solitary a lot of the time. Even though you’re often in a lab with other techs, you’re generally focused on your own tasks. This makes the career appealing to people who thrive off independence, but even the most self-reliant of us can lose focus when we’re working alone. The reality is: You’re never working alone in a dental lab. Your lab-mates, dentists, and sales reps are all parts of your lab, and to work as productively and efficiently as possible, you need to follow these 10 tips.
1. Communicate and collaborate with the dentist
It’s likely that most—if not all—of your lab orders will come from dentists, so regular communication with them is essential to your productivity. At minimum, the dentist will communicate when sending orders and deadlines, but Dentistry iQ argues that you need more than this level of communication: You need collaboration.
Rather than just receive the news of a large order of units, your productivity and dentist-lab relationship would increase if you collaborate from the very start. As soon as the dentist meets with a patient and gains an idea of the prosthetics needed, he or she should begin strategizing with your lab to plan timetables and discuss challenges. This collaborative relationship isn’t always typical, so it’s up to you to work toward it. When receiving orders, ask questions, be personable, and make yourself available to plan future projects together.
2. Keep things tidy
This sounds simple, but it’s actually huge. As a dental lab technician, you’re fabricating crowns, bridges, and other prosthetics, which inevitably results in some mess. As often as possible, but certainly before moving on to another project, you need to tidy up your workspace. Clean surfaces, put your tools back in their proper places, and keep your other materials orderly and only where they’re needed. Any time spent looking for a tool is lost productivity.
3. Write down deadlines
This might be the most common productivity tip for any environment, but your dental lab’s reputation depends on meeting deadlines, so it’s especially pertinent for DLTs. Whenever you receive a new order, write down the deadlines: When it must be delivered, when you have to finish, and when you need to start. This will help you remember the dates more, and with the dates always visible somewhere, you’ll be more productive in working toward them.
4. Implement the list of three
Similarly, every day take stock of your tasks. Write down at least three projects you have to complete, three you would like to, and three that you need to start soon. This morning ritual can imbue a productive mindset, and it ensures you’re always producing a set number of projects every day—while incentivizing you to finish even more.
5. Log inventory weekly
An efficient and productive dental lab depends on having the right materials, and enough of them. Every week, you or one of your lab-mates needs to take stock of your inventory. Keep a log of numbers, so that over time you can see trends. Having too much wax or gypsum can be as detrimental to productivity as too little, so check your lab’s inventory weekly.
6. Schedule breaks
If you’re coming up on a dozen deadlines, you may be able to work tirelessly for a few days to finish them all. This isn’t a sustainable method of productivity, though. Every managerial book and piece of advice insists that regular breaks increase a worker’s productivity. When you’re planning out your day, plan out breaks too. Even walking around the block can clear your mind to do more efficient work once you’re back in the lab.
7. Go outside
Whether it’s your mid-morning break or lunch, you should go outside whenever possible. Vitamin D can reinvigorate you, as can fresh air and more natural scenery. Getting up from your workspace is a great way to boost your mind’s productivity—but even better if you can leave your lab entirely. Whenever the weather permits, take your lunch and snacks outside, and enjoy the sun.
8. Meet with your lab-mates
Remember, you and your fellow DLTs are a team, and you need to meet regularly to confer and ensure you’re all working toward the same goals. Whether it’s a brief meeting every morning, discussing your tasks of the day and upcoming deadlines, or something longer toward the beginning of the week, you need to meet often. Once this becomes standard, you’ll find that your daily communication with lab-mates is more productive, since you always have a firm idea of what they’re working on—and what they need.
9. Eat well
We all know that our energy comes from food, and if you remember any PSA during Saturday morning cartoons, you know that certain foods contain better sources of energy than others. What you eat will affect your productivity, so whether you buy lunch and snacks or pack them, eat foods that will boost your energy.
10. Read industry news
Any lab can begin to feel monotonous after a few weeks or months. Even if you have or are working toward a dental technology specialty, once you master it, the fabrication of crowns, dentures, or orthodontics can begin to feel rote. One of the biggest benefits to dental lab technology is its innovative field. Reading about the latest advancements will keep your mind stimulated and your work inspired, which will keep you productive.