Background The General Dental Council states that 'good dental care is delivered by a team' and restorative treatment is enhanced by communication between team members. Commercial dental laboratories are ideally placed to comment on effective communication. Aims of the study To investigate contemporary attitudes and communication between dentist and dental technician from the technician's perspective. Materials and methods Eight hundred and three dental laboratories were invited to take part in a postal survey covering dentist/laboratory communication and the dentist's understanding of technical procedures. Results Forty percent of laboratories responded. Only 9% scored communication as very good, 48% scored communication with newly qualified dentists better than with established dentists but only 26% considered that dental students were taught to communicate with dental laboratories effectively. The free comments that the respondents were invited to make identified three distinct themes, 'recognition within the dental team', 'effective communication between dentist and dental technician' and 'dentists lack of technical knowledge'. Conclusions Effective communication between dentist and dental technician is often poor. It was the view of the dental technicians who responded that newly qualified dentists do not have an appropriate understanding of technical techniques. Dental schools are still not preparing new graduates to communicate effectively with dental laboratories.