I opened my first dental laboratory in downtown Seneca Falls in 1948. Initially I worked alone, utilizing the experience I gained as a dental technician in the military to guide me. As a small denture lab I had a handful of local customers to support myself, and took great pride in fabricating high-quality dentures and partials for their patients. My focus on “craftsmanship first” was the foundation on which this business — which has now been in my family for over 60 years — was built.
The last six decades have inevitably brought many changes, not just to my family’s lab, but to the dental industry, as well. While we incorporated additional products and technologies to become a full-service lab many years ago, dentures have always held a special place in my heart. Sadly, however, it seems that much of the dental industry has begun to push this restorative “grandfather” a bit to the wayside.
It seems that dental schools aren’t teaching removable dentures as much anymore. At the same time, people are taking better care of their teeth, patients aren’t getting their teeth extracted by the mouthful, and dental offices have come to rely on more permanent, less time-consuming restorations. The result is fewer dentists and, in turn, fewer technicians who really know dentures. This seems to have had the effect of making removable dentures somewhat of a “lost art.”
But I say, “Not on my watch!”
It’s not that dentures aren’t reliable, nor is it that dentistry has grown too advanced of the methodology itself. I strongly believe that dentures still have their place, even today. With uncertainty surrounding the economy, the demand for something a little easier on a patient’s wallet will continue to increase. Not everyone can afford bridgework or implants, and dentures are made to last (I’ve personally manufactured dentures for friends that to this day have seldom needed relining, repair, or replacement — and we’re talking about work I did decades ago!).
Removables don’t have to be any less comfortable or reliable. And they certainly aren’t less esthetic. When done right, your patients will be just as satisfied with a new denture or partial as they would be with any other restoration. The key is to keep an eye toward the intricacies of the craftsmanship and maintain good communication with your laboratory.
Dentures are not one-size-fits-all. Every denture takes careful handling in fabrication, and the more details you provide in your Rx, the less you’ll have to worry about multiple resets and lost chair time.
The best way to communicate with the lab is to give them the clearest impression you possibly can. Use the latest impression techniques, and whatever you find to be the most accurate registration material, in your opinion (personally, I used to recommend Accu-Dent, but these days really any silicone-based material works well). Be sure to pick up detailed muscle trimmings — that’s the most important part. We also recommend using custom trays, as this prevents tissue distortion, and minimizes impression material distortion.
It’s also important to communicate information like bite registration, the lip line at rest, the smile line, and the midline (Image B). The midline can be particularly important because while the lab can typically just use the incisal papilla as a landmark, the incisal papilla has been known to shift under certain circumstances, and as such cannot always be relied on. By marking the midline in the office, you ensure accuracy earlier in the process, again eliminating the need for resets.
A good description of the patient’s facial characteristics is also helpful. In fact, a photograph of the patient is an excellent communication tool for our technicians. Why save photography for just your crown and bridge cases? We can use that photograph to determine if the patient’s face is masculine or feminine, round or square, etc. — which will then aid in proper tooth selection. Having thorough information, specific and unique to each patient is important for case success.
I’m proud of the technical team we’ve assembled at BonaDent. They genuinely take pride in continuing my tradition of quality removable craftsmanship. To this day, I still work alongside our denture technicians to instill in them a love for the craft, for the final result, and for the positive impact on the patient.
By working together with you and your team, we’ll make sure that the “Art” of dentures is never lost.
Angelo Bonafiglia, CDT, Founder BonaDent Dental Laboratories
Angelo Bonafiglia opened his first dental laboratory in Seneca Falls in 1948. After several years of steady growth, Angelo opened a larger lab in 1954 in nearby Auburn, NY. He received CDT certification in Dentures, Partials, Crown & Bridge, and Ceramics in 1960, the first year that national certification took place. This coincided with the business continuing to expand and grow much as it does today. While Angelo’s son Bruce bought the business from his father in 1986, Angelo continues to spend his days in the lab, working at the bench, training other technicians, and remaining intimately involved in nearly every aspect of the business.
Have questions for Angelo about what you can do to ensure your patients are consistently provided with beautiful removable restorations? Send him an e-mail at email@example.com.
To learn more, visit our website at www.bonadent.com.
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