Health & Safety

July 13, 2012

Dental lab puts teeth into work

Story and photo by Senior Airman C.J. Hatch
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Matthew Jefferys melts a small piece of gold to create a gold tooth implant. The gold is heated by hand and spun quickly into the tooth mold.

The sounds of drills and suction tubes strike fear in many people, but in the 56th Dental Squadron, not everyone makes patients cringe.

Members of the 56th DS dental lab work every day to insure the teeth on Luke Air Force Base are healthy by keeping them safe, rebuilt or repaired.

“Here in the dental lab we make anything that goes in a patient’s mouth,” said Tech. Sgt. Bret Toliver, dental lab technician. “We make night guards, retainers, implants, crowns and more.”

Depending on the need, it can take a few weeks for the lab to finish a project, but it all begins in the dentist chair. The dentist identifies a problem, like the need for an implant for a lost tooth, and the lab gets to work.

“The dentist starts out by making an impression of the patient’s mouth where the root of the implant has already been put in,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Jefferys, dental lab technician. “We have a hard-setting stone similar to plaster we pour into the impression to make a model of the patient’s mouth. We take a small piece of metal called an analog that clips into the implant. The fake tooth is built around the analog and made out of metal and porcelain.”

The final product takes a bit of work, according to Jefferys.

The lab tech builds a wax model of the tooth inside the dental impression and shape the wax to look like the original tooth. The wax tooth is taken out of the model and another hard-setting stone material is poured around it. When dry it looks much like a large piece of chalk with a hole in the bottom.

“We put the mold into one of our heaters to melt the wax out of the middle,” Jefferys said. “With the wax out we now have an inverted mold of the patient’s tooth that can be filled with the right material such as gold or porcelain.”

The mold is placed in a centrifuge to be spun quickly allowing the melted material to take the shape of the tooth.

Once the metal cools, it’s removed and prepped for the final process — making it look nice.

“One of the hard things about the whole process is making it aesthetically pleasing,” Jefferys said. “It takes a long time. You don’t want to make a tooth that’s the wrong color, shape or size. So we spend most of our time trying to make the tooth look just right.”

The tooth is then ready to be set in the patient’s mouth.

The process of making an implant takes the longest time in the lab, according to Jefferys. Other things such as night or sports guards are simpler and take only a few days.

For more information on implants, mouth guards or other products, call the clinic at (623) 856-2273 to make a dental appointment.




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