Over the past 25 years I have always had at least 1 C&B lab tech in my office. It works great and costs very little. Your cost on equipment in order to do most porcelain and gold work is about $5,000. This should fully equip your lab to do most Crown and Bridge work. I always paid the Tech as an employee with a bonus based on the number of crowns produced on a monthly basis. If you would like to hear more about having your own lab tech, just give me a call at 972-523-4660.
In the mean time, I have a great trick for getting your lab work to match the shade almost every time. It takes a little practice, but works great. In offices where most of the work is sent out to an out of town lab, follow these easy steps. Order a porcelain staining kit from any lab or supply house. This will come with a porcelain covered dish and a several of the most used shades in small glass vials. Normally, these would be mixed with distilled water and applied to a finished crown and then fired in a small staining oven. This works well, but there is even an easier no cost way of using the stains. First, get in the habit of collecting old lab shade guides, any type, any brand. You are just making a collection of tabs so that they may be used as a starting point in doing a pre-op shade. (Always take the shade prior to beginning your prep). Instead of water, we will use a light cured sealant. Just mix a couple of drops with any shade you would like to try and paint on the shade that most closely matches your tooth. Feel free to experiment. Add a little purple to create translucency at the incisal edge; a little opaque white to add those “splotches”; yellow or orange to place at the gingival margin to create the CEJ or neck color. When you get it just right (you can always just wipe it off and start again) hit it with the light. This fixes the color and you now have a custom shade to send to the lab. I would also send a digital photo with the guide next to the tooth to show morphology. When the lab case comes back with your tooth, just wipe off the tab with alcohol or finger nail polish remover and it is ready to go for the next case. One other suggestion: don’t waste time doing the shade taking your self. Learn to delegate to a female assistant. They have more color rods in their eyes than do males, and are more experienced at subtle shade differences.