The labor status of dental technicians has been downgraded from skilled to unskilled labor by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Thanks to Pam Johnson and her team at IDT for providing “front and center” coverage of the topic with her article: Dental industry fights the government’s recent downgrade of labor status for dental technicians . While the article does a great job pointing out all of the negatives related to this, I would like to add some commentary as well.
First of all, how much good has it done the industry to be classified as skilled labor in the past? All i’d ever heard about was how dental education programs were closing, fewer technicians getting into the field, increasing offshore competition, stale wages and more – and this was while we were still considered skilled workers!
So, how much worse can it get? In fact, let’s not discount the chance that it might even get better. Take for example the true story about a restaurant that got downgraded from four to five stars. Naturally, the restaurants owner was furious and called everyone he could think was involved in the downgrade. Even worse, local magazines and dinning guides all talked about the fall of this “once revered” dining institution.
Interestingly, while the restaurants owner was preparing for the worst, business was booming. It took a while to figure out what was causing the groundswell of new business even after the rating was downgraded. Eventually they realized that executives at the largest companies, whose policies scrutinized five-star dinning, were now able to frequent the restaurant for business dinners and events.
I only bring this up to say there’s still a chance for dental laboratory technicians to become more successful than ever before even with the downgrade. And while we may not know exactly how or why, there is plenty we can start doing to be recognized as skilled labor regardless of what the BLS says.
Here’s my three simple ideas for our industry to start taking action and changing the course of its recognition and its success. The ABC’s of Changing the Course of the Dental Technicians Future
- Act skilled – The easy stuff….Shave, put on pants and button down shirt, speak eloquently and clean your shoes off every day.
- Be skilled – Work to improve the products you provide and the expertise you have with constant learning and improvement. Make the time, and budget for, continuing education.
- Create skill-based restorations – Don’t just make placeholder-type crowns that simply fill a void in the patients mouth. Learn and work towards creating truly functioning and esthetically correct restorations that are more accurate, take less time to seat and cause lower remakes than those that come from “non-skilled” competitors.
At the end of the day, the opportunity to be skilled in a world of non-skilled competitors gives us the opportunity to be better in the restorations we provide and the knowledge we offer our customers than what our many of our competitors will be able to do.
So the next time you pick up a case, don’t just think about it as an opportunity to restore a tooth. Think about it as an opportunity to restore your profession.