Dental lab is flourishing in Upper Gwynedd

Hubert Jasinski, founder of Newtech Dental Laboratories, which has broken ground on an expansion. LUKE RAFFERTY / Staff
Hubert Jasinski, founder of Newtech Dental Laboratories, which has broken ground on an expansion. LUKE RAFFERTY / Staff
Posted: August 13, 2013

When Hubert Jasinski opened his current 9,000-square-foot dental laboratory in 2000, he thought he would be retired before the company needed to expand.

"We thought it would take 20 years to fill it," said Jasinski, who founded Newtech Dental Laboratories as a one-man operation in his parents' basement in 1979.

Newtech, which makes crowns, false teeth, and other dental restorations, is ahead of schedule.

Last month, the company broke ground on a $2.5 million expansion that will more than double the size of its facility in Upper Gwynedd Township.

Newtech now employs more than 50, including part-timers, and plans to add 33 jobs over the next three years to fulfill the terms of a low-interest $1.04 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.

"We want to be the largest dental laboratory in the Northeast," said Seung H. Lee, vice president of Newtech.

Newtech has $8.2 million in annual revenue now and intends to more than double that figure over the next five to seven years, Lee said.

Newtech's growth is part of the continuing consolidation of the U.S. dental laboratory industry, which has about $7 billion in revenue, according to Bennett Napier, executive director of the National Association of Dental Laboratories in Tallahassee, Fla.

Five years ago, there were 13,000 dental laboratories in the United States. Now there are about 10,000, he said

"The vast majority of the ones that are no longer in the marketplace are those one-person, two-person laboratories," Napier said.

The number of single-person labs fell to 2,800 last year, down from nearly 6,000 in 2008, according to the trade association.

Dental laboratories bring together the ancient and the modern.

They use age-old casting techniques for some products and depend on highly artistic technicians to create single front teeth that blend in with the others.

Jasinski, whose mother was a dental technician in England, said he was so interested in making detailed models as a youth that he would put spark-plug cables on his model cars.

His daughter, Yvonne, has joined him in the dental laboratory.

"She's building up a miniature sand castle," Jasinski said, describing how his daughter was using a tiny paintbrush to apply layer upon layer of porcelain powder mixed with water to make a replacement tooth.

But technology is making significant inroads.

The adoption of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing to make the bases to which the porcelain is applied is a factor in the disappearance of small shops. Such technology has reduced the amount of time from order to delivery from 10 to 12 days to five or six days, Lee said.

The computer-aided design and manufacturing machines cost from $100,000 to more than $200,000, squeezing some small laboratories out of the market.

On the other hand, "technology to some extent has allowed dental labs to better compete with offshore competition," Napier said.

The percentage of dental restorations made overseas has plateaued at about 38 percent after spiking from 1993 through 2005, Napier said.

A challenge for Newtech is finding skilled workers, despite offering jobs that pay $50,000 a year without a college degree.

"In the industry, top technicians can earn more than $100,000," Lee said.

To help remedy the shortage, Newtech is advocating for a training program at Upper Bucks County Technical School.

"We're looking to start to educate them at the high school level," Lee said.


Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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