When one thinks of the 56th Dental Squadron one may think of dental assistants and dentists cleaning and performing fillings on teeth, but there is a section that is integral to the protection and health of many active-duty personnel’s teeth.
Made up of three Airmen, the 56th DS Dental Laboratory technicians at Luke Air Force Base are responsible for fabricating almost anything needed for the patient’s mouth.
“In the dental lab we fabricate crowns, retainers, sports guards, implants and more,” said Staff Sgt. Maddie Baker, 56th DS Dental Laboratory technician. “We pretty much construct anything that goes inside a patient’s mouth that isn’t a filling or braces.”
Dental lab technicians have to ensure their time is used wisely to get orders completed.
“There are many things we have to keep track of all at once,” Baker said. “For example, say a dental assistant takes alginate impressions and brings them back to the lab for us to pour up in stone. This is a time sensitive process because we have a set amount of time to finish making the appliance while still making whatever else is needed that day.”
Out of all the things technicians fabricate, crowns are needed the most, and it all starts from an impression taken of the patient’s mouth.
“Once we receive the impression, we use that to pour a hard-setting stone into the impression to create a cast or model of the patient’s mouth,” said Staff Sgt. Breeann Frost, 56th DS Dental Lab technician. “Thereafter, the cast is sent back to the dentist to be trimmed.”
The cast is then sent back to the lab after the dentist makes his final adjustments where the fabrication process begins.
“We first create a wax model of the crown then inverse it to create an inverted mold of the tooth, so that it can either be cast into metal or pressed into porcelain,” Frost said.
Prior to sending the crown back to the dentist, technicians finish staining and glazing the crown to make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
While they work behind-the-scenes, dental lab technicians ensure personnel are deployable.
“We are important to the Air Force mission by providing dental care to ensure mission-ready warfighters,” Baker said.