According to the data from Chinese Dental Association, China fabricates 60% to 70% of the world’s dental cases each year. And Shenzhen, the city neighboring to Hong Kong, manufactures over 60% of the dentures that China exports each year. Chinese dental outsourcing centers are located mainly in 2 areas: Perl River delta region (with Shenzhen as its center) and Yangtze River delta region (with Shanghai being its center). Currently, there are more than 200 dental suppliers in Shenzhen. And most of them are gathering in Bao’an district, Nanshan district and longgang district.
1. Overview of a Chinese dental lab
Lately, reporters came to Robust Dental Lab, which is operating in Bao’an district. There were about 100 certified technicians. Even though the owner said his factory was only a middle-scale one, the manufacturing site still took up the whole floor. In this place, reporters saw dental products from various kinds of materials, including porcelain, metal and wax etc. Here, those skilled technicians use both traditional mold casting and modern 3D printing to fabricate dental cases. With this method, they could keep up with the trends. The owner told reporters that dental products are completely customized, according to patients’ particular impressions and dentists’ prescriptions. So the shape, size and shade of each fake tooth are different from others.
Most finished dental cases are exported to North America and Europe. The fastest turnaround time of the whole process is usually 7 days. Apart form the delivery time, it often takes 2 to 4 days in lab to fabricate dentures. Each process such as model pouring, model trimming, waxing, high temperature casting, milling, porcelain building, glazing, and polishing, depends on technicians’ skills and experiences. That’s why the major cost of a factory comes from the investment of skilled labors. The owner also said that this kind of middle-scale dental lab could handle about 300 cases each day, while large-scale ones have the capacity to fabricate more than 1,500 cases.
2. Problems with Chinese dental outsourcing
In the past few years, however, many external capitals have entered the denture processing industry. As a result, it brought fiercer competition among domestic dental suppliers. Dental fabrication in Shenzhen is also faced with many problems:
- The production cost is rising rapidly due to the constantly growing rents and labor cost.
- Local dental labs still lack an effective training system. At present, the common practice is that a skilled technician trains one to two apprentices in lab. Thus, it often takes years for an apprentice to get fully trained for making dental cases.
- The living cost in Shenzhen is skyrocketing. And many skilled technicians choose to leave the city.
- There are no strict regulations. Dental factories are competing mostly by only offering lower prices. But they could improve themselves by providing better products and services. It is quite normal that dental labs steal experienced technicians from neighboring labs, with higher salary and better social benefits.
3. Improving dental supplying industry.
To create a healthy environment for all dental labs in Shenzhen, The Dental Profession Committee was established under the supervision of Bao’an Food and Drug Administration. The committee will serve as a bridge between the government and the local dental labs. It will help promptly report difficulties and problems to the government, and strive for policy support and business guidance. Besides, it advocates norms, integrity and self-discipline in the industry. Finally, the committee strengthens internal management, and tries to establish a good image of the Shenzhen dental industry.