Introduction

A dental lab workstation—also referred to as a dental lab workbench or dental lab bench—is a specially designed desk where lab technicians and other dental professionals make adjustments to prosthetic and therapeutic devices such as dentures, crowns, bridges, retainers and implants. This desk usually includes attached shelving and lighting, armrests and a dust collector with a suction hose and face shield to prevent the technician from breathing in particulates created during grinding operations.

Lab workstation rendering

In a medium-sized practice, dental workstations are often placed in a small room along with other dental lab equipment and supplies. Lab workstations have even been sighted sharing space with storage closets and break rooms—less than ideal locations for this important work.

When planning a dedicated lab space, dental professionals have many requirements to consider, which fall under two main categories:
● providing a clean and safe working environment for users of the space;
● sourcing durable, yet adaptable dental lab furniture and cabinets that will provide long-term value for your investment.

In this article, we will discuss these requirements briefly and describe some of the dos and don’ts to be aware of when setting up your practice-based dental lab.

Dental Lab and Dental Lab Workstation Dos

Dental laboratory environments have numerous specific requirements that are easy to overlook. Beyond planning the furniture, equipment and dental lab supplies that will occupy the room, you must ensure that users of the space will be able to keep it clean and tidy, thereby providing the safest and most efficient operation for your practice. Here are some tips to remember when planning your dental lab:

DO: Prioritize health and safety.

In addition to putting your dental workstation in a dedicated and suitable location, you should also consider who will be using it and what they need to work comfortably and productively. Ergonomically designed dental lab benches should be adjustable to the user’s preferences. This may include a height-adjustable desktop and stool, movable or removable armrests and dust collection shield, shelving to keep lab case pans within arm’s reach, and natural color-corrected lighting to ensure tooth color matching without straining one’s eyes. DENTALEZ provides an array of dental lab workbenches to address all these needs at different budgets. All Nevin workbenches come with an optional integrated dust collection system, designed from the ground up to be space saving, seamless and automatic, making this safety feature also easy to use.

DO: Make a list of the types of work and workflows you want to accomplish in your lab.

Brainstorm with your staff to build a complete list. Even procedures that may seem minimal could require a dedicated space. For example, will you be casting crowns or utilizing digital technology to mill crowns? If so, you will need a burnout oven, a casting well, a wax printer, a milling unit and a sintering furnace. These pieces of specialized dental lab equipment require space, but may also need air, gas, electricity or water to function properly. The dental lab experts at DENTALEZ’s Nevin Workstations know how each piece of equipment works and what utilities it requires. They can help you create a plan for your dental lab that accounts for all of your team’s workflows and related requirements.

DO: Tally ALL the equipment and supplies necessary for the lab.

After you have completed your list of workflows for your dental lab, use it to make a complete list of all the equipment and dental lab supplies you will need to accommodate in the space. The best laid plans for a lab space can and do go awry when your space becomes overcrowded with new equipment and supplies that you didn’t account for. Everything—down to chairs, stools and even trash cans—should be planned to give you and your staff the most efficient and productive space for fabrications and adjustments.

DO: Plan for the future.

Think about your hopes and plans for the future of your practice. Do you want to expand the number of operatories and practitioners? Try not to shortchange your lab space now, or you could wind up with both frustrated staff and dissatisfied patients. Do you aspire to offer same-day dentistry? More and more dental practices are opting for in-office milling. This high-tech service requires more specialized equipment: scanners, wax printers, 3D printers, milling machines and sintering ovens. Make sure you have accounted for all these pieces in your plans.

Dental Lab and Dental Lab Bench Don’ts

When budgets are limited or a quick turnaround is needed for an upgraded or new in-office lab, it may be tempting to take shortcuts to keep your practice running with minimal disruption. In the long run, a hastily assembled dental lab space will likely lead to headaches as well as costly repairs and replacements. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when planning your dental lab:

DON’T: Take a DIY approach to your dental lab cabinets.

If you use a local contractor or building supply store to build out your office lab space, you will very likely end up with wooden or laminate covered cabinets and countertops that are permanently installed in the same way a contractor would install a kitchen. Then when the time comes to reconfigure or expand your lab or move it to an entirely new space, those built-in cabinets will likely end up being torn out and not reusable. By contrast, Nevin Workstations dental lab furniture and equipment are designed to be modular, like building blocks, so they can be more easily moved and reconfigured in your new space.

DON’T: Forget that a dental lab is a wet environment.

In addition to being difficult to modify and move, over time, building supply store cabinets can easily become nonfunctional in a dental lab. Since dental lab equipment frequently uses water or steam, the excess moisture in the environment can damage furniture and cabinets made from wood or laminated particle board. Countertops can warp. Drawers become stuck and broken. DENTALEZ’s dental lab benches, designed to last 20−25 years, are made from 100% powder-coated steel and solid surface or stainless steel countertops. DENTALEZ’s workstations carry a one-year warranty, extended to two years if installed by a Nevin Workstations team.

DON’T: Assume your current air compressor can handle additional equipment (unless it’s a Ramvac).

Remember that in-office milling machine you’d like to acquire someday? Like your handpieces, it runs on air. So if you are renovating your lab space or building a new one, also take a look at your air compressor to make sure it can handle an increased demand for air from new and future dental lab equipment. DENTALEZ has taken a smart approach to upgrading its Ramvac air compressors to be ready for in-office milling if and when you decide to take that step.

DON’T: Use your lab for storage that you haven’t planned for.

Since the dental lab isn’t always in use in most medium-to-small dental practices, it becomes tempting to start using it as a storage area for things not related to lab work. When space is at a premium, the dental lab can even double as a coat closet! This practice can render your dental lab bench unusable over time. To avoid this pitfall, make sure you design the room to have adequate storage for all your equipment and dental lab supplies. Once you have a well-functioning lab space, create rules with your staff about what should be stored there and what should not be stored there. Post signage if necessary to keep everyone on the same page.

Setting Up Your Dental Lab Workstation

Now that we have discussed some of the dos and don’ts involved in considering your in-office dental lab needs, designing your lab space and selecting the right dental lab equipment, let’s look at an “ideal” dental lab layout.

blueprint layout of a dental lab workstation

In the rendering and floor plan seen here, the dental lab occupies a room that is about 12’x12’, although a slightly smaller space (10’x10’) would still allow for an “ideal” layout. The dental lab workstation has a dedicated position against a wall with only a porcelain oven next to it. The bench’s dust collection system, shelving and overhead lighting are all open and accessible and there is plenty of open floor space for the user’s stool (not seen here) to move around. There are upper and lower cabinets to neatly contain additional supplies and all other dental lab equipment is appropriately spaced around a U-shaped countertop. In this layout, lab technicians are able to move freely and efficiently from station to station to complete their tasks.

Conclusion

When planning to upgrade or create a new dedicated dental lab, think through the many requirements that contribute to providing a clean, safe working environment and getting long-term value from your investment. These dos and don’ts include:

DO: Prioritize the health and safety of yourself and your staff.
DO: List the types of work and workflows you will do in your lab.
DO: Tally ALL the equipment and supplies you intend to put in the lab.
DO: Plan for future expansion of your practice and/or services.
DON’T: Take a DIY approach to building out your lab.
DON’T: Forget that a dental lab is a wet environment; procure equipment designed for it.
DON’T: Assume your current air compressor can handle additional equipment.
DON’T: Use your lab for storage that you haven’t planned for.

Dental lab workstations from DENTALEZ address all of these considerations and more. Our decades of experience with manufacturing and installing dental labs have enabled us to build some of the most durable and ergonomic dental lab benches on the market.