U.S. Dental Labs Face Unfair Foreign Competition

 President Trump hasn’t done much to keep the American dental lab industry in existence. Today most U.S. dental laboratories have moved to China, or been put out of work by capitalists moving business to China to take advantage of cheap Chinese labor that is sometimes socialized. In the United States there are only about 6000 dental labs most of which are small, remaining to produce crowns, bridges, implants, dentures and so forth for Americans.

What happened is that FedEx and other fast shippers enabled U.S. dentists to send impressions to China and get them back in nearly the same time frame as local American producers. With on-line digitalized data of digital implants the dentists can have the information in China the same day as he took the data from the patient, then have the Chinese make a crown or bridge and send it back with seven days. That dumped Chinese advantage is purely a consequence of cheap labor abroad and technology that makes American skilled craftsmen increasing obsolete, and that isn’t right.

It’s quite expensive to start a small dental lab business; the technology is costly and there is new equipment every year that speeds up production. Young people lack the skill and the capital to start their own business. Dentists themselves with lots of capital may band together and create dental labs in China to profit from the cheap Chinese labor. They don’t pass on the savings to American crown consumers. The cheap Chinese labor and ease of foreign investment means the dental lab business is moving to China and will do so for a decade or so while some U.S.survivors keep modernizing to keep up. The advantage is Chinese though.

President Trump should at least put 50% tariffs on imported Chinese products from dental labs to create an American placeholder in the dental lab business until technological advance makes purely local production through automation viable. Without enough skilled technicians to work with the new technology, the new automation for tooth production will go to those with already existing dental technology. One day the Chinese communist party may own automated dental lab franchises across America to print on demand zircon crowns for U.S. dentists while American workers can compete through labor ready with illegal Mexican and Central American migrants for shovel ready jobs.