A trip to the dentist can sometimes hurt one’s wallet as much as it does one’s teeth. Plainview resident Elias Melengic would know; as the manager at JHM Royal Dental Lab in Little Neck, a position he’s held for the past “eight or nine years,” he’s heard his fair share of complaints. But with the development of the lab’s new website, www.royaldentaldirect.com, he believes he’s found a way to save those with tooth trouble a load of aggravation.
“We listened to people,” Melengic said. “When you talk to people, they say ‘Why are things so expensive, the dentist doesn’t even make it.’ So I thought we can do this. We can make a site and skip the middleman.”
In this instance, the “middleman” Melengic is referring to is the dentist. Typically, someone who needs a retainer, mouth guard, whitening tray or temporary teeth would go to the dentist for a dental impression. The dentist would then send the impression to a dental lab, which would custom-build the necessary appliance based on the bite marks and send it back to the dentist. However, according to Melengic, a dentist may sometimes charge a patient an inflated price with possibly a 300 or 400 percent markup. Melengic and his father, John, who owns the lab, saw an opportunity to conduct business more directly, leading to the site’s launch two months ago. So far, Melengic says, it has exceeded expectations.
“It’s gotten nutty,” he said. “The response so far has been great. We’re already way beyond our goal for the first few months. It feels great because we’re helping people. They can save time and money. For people who don’t have problems with [teeth] grinding or clenching, or if you lose your retainer and your teeth shift back, people without these problems don’t understand what it’s like. It’s really all about being able to do good for the community. It’s very rewarding.”
The site operates in four steps. First, a customer must place an order for the type of appliance they need. The lab will follow up by mailing a dental impression kit. Detailed instructions as to what constitutes an accurate impression are available on the site, along with explanatory videos. The impression is sent back to the lab whereupon the appliance is made and shipped to the customer. Admittedly, the provided service could seem too good to be true, something Melengic is well aware of.
“I had a call from a woman [recently],” he said. “She called because she didn’t think it was real. She wanted to make sure it was legit. Once people visit our site and read about us, they see everything we’re doing. There are a million kinds of materials. We know which is best because we’ve used it all. We don’t like to cheap out. We use the best of everything.”
And, as Melengic points out, the lab is not an overnight sensation. It was established in 1977.
“We’ve been here for so long,” he said. “When you find a great lab, it’s like a great nurse. It’s caring about the people. It’s not like we’re in some lab in China and you can’t reach us. We have a footprint in the community.”