TAMPA, Fla. - "Nine times out of 10 you will never get a chance to meet us; we are the guys behind the scenes doing the dirty work, fixing and creating the teeth that keep you healthy and mobility ready."
Who are these hidden specialists? Dental laboratory technicians.
Unbeknownst to many, when Airmen need dental work, they turn to dentists who then turn to dental laboratory specialists. These master craftsmen use the latest tools and techniques to craft everything from dentures to crowns and work with dental materials such as acrylic, gypsum and gold.
To put into perspective how important The 6th Air Mobility Wing lab technicians are--on average the 6th dental clinic seats over 27,500 patients, which generates nearly 22,000 lab tech servicing needs. Add in the fact that there are only three active duty techs and one civilian, and their importance is easily understood.
"We are constantly busy; if we aren't doing a case for our prosthodontist, then we are helping the general dentists with quick fixes, pouring stone, or fabricating a prosthesis with a quick turn-around time," said Staff Sgt. Velette Webb, 6th Dental Squadron dental technician. "Nonetheless, we take great pride in our job, understand its importance, and our role in completing the Air Force mission."
Detailing of the lab tech job includes the fabrication and repair of dentures, removable partial dentures, metal or porcelain crowns, bridges, orthodontic devices, mouth guards and other types of appliances designed to restore the appearance, function and health of a patient's mouth.
"Our job takes precision and an artistic flair. Each piece that we construct is extremely detailed and is designed specifically to fit each patient," said Webb.
Because of high amounts of attention to detail and time spent to perfect their fabrications, the lab techs get an overwhelming sense of pride knowing that their hard work is helping others.
"Every now and then we get the opportunity to see our work being inserted into a patient; that alone gives you satisfaction--seeing the patient happy is such a rewarding part of the job," said Staff Sgt. Ruben Alfonso, 6th DS dental technician.