What is a Dental Technician?

Walk through a dental lab and you smell the scents of craftwork. Wax, ceramics, acrylics, porcelain, plaster, kilns for heating dental products and forges for melting metals combine to create a distinctive odor. Work is taking place! Molds of teeth, of entire jawlines, copies of patients’ problems waiting for solutions occupy available desk space. Right here in Carmichael, the Marconi Dental Group has its own dental lab, staffed by Barry LaFond, a master technician. A future article will focus on our updated lab and Barry, but to help you understand the process of becoming a dental technician and working in a dental lab, we visited the training school for dental technicians at the world-famous Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

Trinity College was established by Queen Elizabeth the First. As Ireland’s only school for dental technicians, it works alongside the university’s dental school to build crownsdenturesbridges and implants for procedures performed by dental students. In this way, student technicians work with student dentists and both get a better grasp on the needs of their respective fields. After three years of training, a technician is ready to start work in a lab.

A technician’s task usually starts with a mold of an upper and lower jaw. From this exact cast, or perhaps a digital image of the jawlines, a technician creates an entirely new set of teeth for dentures or applies perfectly fitted crowns to dental implants. Computer-aided machines can carve out a new tooth from a block of material, based on the technicians input. Most technicians, however, like to create artificial teeth by hand, using very durable ceramics.

Dental technicians have the same interest in beautiful smiles that you find in dentists. “I knew I wanted to work in dentistry,” says Christian Tomita, a Trinity College graduate, “but I didn’t know whether to be a hygienist or a technician. Then I noticed that in order to join the technical school, the description said you had to be interested in ‘artistry.’ Then I knew, that was the program for me.” Tomita believes the technician’s work combines “art with an attention to detail.” His favorite assignment is making crowns with ceramic material added layer by layer, mimicking both the necessary shape of the original tooth and its color. “If I wanted to become a jeweler, I could. The work with metals, with molds, it’s all the same skills used in making jewelry. We just use these skills to make teeth.”

Much of the technician’s work involves waiting – ceramics are heated in kilns, acrylics are melted and cooled, metal is liquefied, poured and formed, porcelain is shaped with heat and presses – so a technician works on many patients’ orders simultaneously. Attention to detail is essential to keep things organized.

Yvette Kavanagh, a Trinity College instructor, is a published researcher in dental appliances and a professional technician for over fifteen years. She believes the variety is what makes the work so fascinating. “Every day I wake up excited to go to work and it has been that way for me since I first started as a dental technician.” Explaining the work on her lab bench, she points to each mold and impression and proceeds to describe each patient’s requirements. It’s obvious that the technician is just as concerned about the patient as the dentist, and realizes that their effort is a step towards enduring health and comfort for the client. As Christian Tomita states, “If I make a patient’s appliance properly, it might last them a lifetime! That is my goal as a dental technician.”

The work of the Marconi Dental Group in creating dental implants, repairing broken teeth, completing full mouth restorations and installing crowns requires the skilled assistance provided by our own dental lab, staffed by Barry LaFond. His craftsmanship and detail means that we can create fabulous smiles and restore dental health. If you require the services of a dental lab, we encourage you to contact our Carmichael dental office to meet with our dentist and technical team.

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