Monday, December 12, 2011

Consequences of talented craftsman leaving the dental laboratory industry

Workmanship already extinct
Properly constructed partial frame soon to become extinct

Partial constructed out of thermoplastic material

Thermoplastic partial after settling in the patient’s mouth

Thermoplastic single tooth replacement

Consequences of talented craftsman leaving the dental laboratory industry

With the disappearance of talented craftsman from the dental laboratory industry, anything that makes dental appliances initially acceptable to patients has became welcomed by dentists. With partial dentures, this first started out by replacing the metal used in its construction with extremely soft metal. When the frame of the partial does not fit right, soft metal allows dentists to perform excessive adjustments to it with reduced risk of fracture. It also allows dental laboratories to increase production while paying less attention to precision during the stages of design and construction.

Unfortunately, once put into active use by the patient, the disadvantages of such metal flexibility become apparent.  Soft metal clasps loosen easily and fail to provide adequate retention.  A delicate major connector (the major part of the frame that connects all the parts together) constructed out of soft metal bends easily and develops a rock. Soft metal construction also carries other disadvantages.  Because of its relative lack of resilience, the frame must be constructed thicker and as a result reduces comfort and increases metal exposure.  Since soft metal is not exempt from fracture, the advantages of its passivity are overcome by its shortcomings and problems it creates.

As I explained in an article that was published on February 21, 2003 in the Chicago Sun-Times, entitled Brain drain threatens dental health, “If the experienced talent continues to leave the removable sector of the industry at the same rate, soon there will be no one left to teach the next generation of technicians.” Just think how many baby boomers are in need of partials and providing them with state of the art removable appliances would improve the quality of life for many. I used to construct partials for professional hockey players who took them out for the game. Most of them get their knocked out teeth replaced with implants or bridges only after they retire from the sport. Their quality of life is being compromised as well.

Today, dental manufacturers know that soon there will be no quality dental technicians left and are doing everything possible to improve computer-generated automation.  In the meantime, profits must be maintained and the push for mega labs with employees with no experience that are hired off the street is on the rise. Dentists are also sending out their appliances to be constructed in China, where as reported by NBC, “There are concerns that the lead found in Chinese toys may also be showing up in implants, crowns and dentures from China and India.”

With the disappearance of partial denture framework technicians, today the metal that is used in partials  is being replaced with flexible thermoplastic material which requires even less accuracy than partials constructed out of soft metal. Flexible partials made out of thermoplastic material are extremely bulky and affects comfort and speech. In addition, because flexible partials lack metal rests and clasps that are needed to prevent the partial from settling, in time the denture teeth loose contact with the opposing dentition, the flexible clasps fail to provide retention and these types of partials become non-functional appliances. Today, some dentists are even beginning to sell single tooth replacements made out of thermoplastic material that can be chocking hazards.
Besides what has been exposed by NBC, where’s Fox news or the rest of the media whom I’ve contacted numerous times about problems in dentistry. It’s either that the dental industry invests a lot of money to keep things hush or investigative journalism is dead?

By Arvid Saunaitis