omegaman: Is that a slot-in drive or standard tray-in? If the latter, have you already visually inspected the lens? Maybe you just need to remove some dust - usually best done with one of those special brushes for photo lenses. If you use something else (e.g. q-tip and some cleaning fluid in order to remove a fingerprint), be aware that you should only apply minimal pressure in order not to ruin the adjustment or the focus mechanism.
In case that doesn't help and the drive really is broken and it's not under warranty anymore, it's probably wise to first ask Dell what they'd charge you for a replacement and compare that sum to the retail prices of some recent slim-line dvd/cd drive models. I've got no personal experience with the Dell service, but replacement parts are often enough rather overpriced - hence the recommendation to compare... However, there's one catch: Most notebooks I know don't use the standard slim-line drive front panels, but custom front panels that better integrate into the case design - and in some cases these custom front panels have different mounting parts that won't fit to standard slim-line drives.
Greetings from Munich!
Manfred / lini