Our field trip today turned out to be more about crowns than about dentures, although we did get to see some dentures being made too. Our friend who works at this lab, Gisela, has worked there for 20 years, with the same boss, John, for all that time. John had a great time showing us around his small dental lab, and had great fun with our kids, which I'll tell you about in another post. I didn't get pictures, for 2 reasons. One, the lab was so small that I think pictures would have been annoying to the technicians anyway. Two, I forgot the camera. So. I will take pics of what the kids did, though, since they got to bring them home.
There were about 10 people in the lab, and I don't know that any of them are from the same country! It's amazing how culturally diverse Vancouver is, and our visit to this office today brought that home even more. Gisela is from Switzerland originally, while John is from Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia when he left there). He didn't see his brother for 20 years after he moved to Canada, because of the political climate in Eastern Europe for so many years. We met Rebecca, who was Filipina, and Paolo from Brazil. Others were from other countries, but we didn't hear where. And I think their receptionist was Canadian, based on her North American accent, and then there were us Americans! Everyone was so friendly, and they seemed to enjoy the kids and learning more about homeschoolers - we were kind of an oddity, I guess.
The job that our friend does is applying the porcelain to gold crowns. I just realized today what an artist she is! She was seeing shades of blue (blue?) in teeth, and showing us how subtly it is shaded with pink. Ok! Most teeth are somewhat brown, actually. When the dentist orders a crown or bridge, he uses a shade guide, which is also used at the lab, to match the other teeth around the one he's crowning or replacing. Gisela showed us the really white shade that's so popular to try to attain right now, and called them "Hollywood teeth," because so many actors get their teeth done this way. This shade was really unnatural looking, so not many people choose to do that. Gisela knew exactly what colors to use to shade the tooth to a natural-looking color. It really is an art, and she said it took her two years of training just to begin in this occupation, and now she has 20 years of experience under her belt. I was impressed!
The process of making a crown begins in the dentist's office, of course, with his making an impression of your teeth. You know, that goopy stuff that he puts in your mouth in a retainer-shaped holder? It's supposed to taste like spearmint. Right. Well, that is sent to the lab, where the technicians make a plaster mold of your teeth. That mold is used throughout the process of making your crown, to make sure the tooth fits in with your other teeth and fits the way your jaw and other teeth fit together. There's a gadget that holds both upper and lower jaw impressions, and the technician uses it to simulate opening, closing, and chewing. The mold is also used to make the gold under portion of the crown, and then the gold crown is sent to Gisela to have the porcelain and shading applied. It's fired in ovens a couple of times along the way to give it strength. Then it's mounted onto a bridge and sent back to your dentist to put in your mouth. Pretty cool!
We saw how dentures are made, from the acrylic "gums" to the pre-fabricated teeth (they're ordered in - no custom work for them!). We also saw how mouth guards are made for professional athletes (hockey players here, mostly), from dental molds from their dentists. Now that's custom! They make the guards that many people wear at night to keep from grinding their teeth too.
All in all, it was very informative and interesting. We had a nice time getting to know Gisela's co-workers and seeing where she works all day. And she has a spectacular view of the mountains and sea from her work station!