News: Building smiles, one tooth at a time
Story by Sgt. Barry St. Clair
FORT BLISS, Texas – The U. S. Army offers many occupational specialties. One of these is dental lab technician. Dental lab technicians are stationed at dental clinics across the Army, including at the Army’s only dental lab located at Fort Gordon, Ga., where dental prosthesis, night guards, sports guards, dental crowns and bridges are made.
Dental lab technicians fabricate metal and porcelain prosthesis, dentures, bite guards, gold crowns and bridges to replace teeth lost to neglect, disease or injury.
Spc. Mark Romero of El Paso, Texas, a dental lab technician assigned to Dental Clinic #3 here, demonstrated the process of reconstructing a smile during an interview last week.
“We give people a chance to smile again,” said Romero.
Romero, who describes himself as personable and laid-back, also explained the process of fabricating dental prosthetics.
“First, either the dentist will take an impression, or ask one of us from the lab to come and take it,” said Romero.
Next, plaster or stone is poured into the impression to make a detailed model for the lab techs to build on. Once the stone models are set and dry, they are placed on an articulator that replicates jaw movement.
“From there, we can take dyes out and work on a single crown, or group of teeth to build the replacement teeth,” said Romero.
“When we have very complex fabrications, or a high work load, we send out the models to the Army’s only dental lab at Fort Gordon, where the appliances are fabricated and returned to us.”
“The mouth and teeth are very complex,” said Romero. “Our main concern is that the patients are happy, that the prosthetic or dentures are precisely built, and that they are adjusted well for smooth and comfortable fit.”
Romero, who graduated from Franklin High School in El Paso and continued his education at El Paso Community College, has worn the uniform for more than nine years. He joined the military to serve his country, to support his family and to receive education benefits.
“I also enjoy the discipline and training,” said Romero.