Lab technicians play vital role at CDA Cares clinics

Steve Simon, owner of Professional Dental Laboratory in Sacramento, hadn’t volunteered at a large-scale health clinic before, but he said CDA Cares Sacramento was an event he couldn’t pass up.  

Simon, along with more than a dozen dental laboratory technicians, signed up to volunteer their skills at the free dental clinic in August. Simon has been a lab technician for more than four decades and currently serves as the president of the California Dental Laboratory Association. He took his experience and jumped in with both hands.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I expected to just get in there and work,” Simon said.  

And so did the other 20 lab technicians who sized, shaped and sculpted dentures, partials and other prosthetics at CDA Cares Sacramento.

Dental lab technicians often take stayplate orders from dentists and work individually in their labs. They can specialize in orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants or ceramics. With so many different skillsets on hand at CDA Cares, Simon helped orchestrate an assembly line of technicians.

“One person set teeth on, one made clasps, one did matrixes, one person cleaned, and another person polished,” Simon said. “That’s why I think we were able to accomplish as much as we did. Rather than just one person doing it all, like we do at our own labs, we had a team of people who didn’t know each other but were working together.”

It took approximately two to three hours from the time orders were put in for stayplates at CDA Cares to the time they were placed into a patient’s mouth. Volunteer technicians worked together to help provide patients at the clinic with 201 complete and partial dentures, worth more than $200,000 in care.

“People from so many different specialties volunteered their time to make this happen,” said Eric Wright, a lab technician from Modesto.

Wright volunteered from start to finish at both the Modesto CDA Cares clinic and Sacramento clinic.
“In Modesto, we had no idea what to expect, and then in Sacramento, I knew the setup already and knew what equipment we needed to bring,” Wright said.

Volunteers in the lab area brought acrylic monomers, lights, handpieces, wax pots, electric waxers, curing pots and more.

“Modesto ran really smoothly, but Sacramento ran even better because we had a lot of people who returned and were generous enough to bring a lot of their equipment to help out,” Wright said.

Kip Lemos, owner of Brabant Dental Lab in Sacramento, worked with Simon to make sure the lab area had the necessary equipment. He also brought several members of his staff to volunteer.

“Going in, I was willing to do whatever needed to be done because I had never experienced anything like it before,” Lemos said. “I thought it was a good opportunity to try to get my staff at the lab to participate and give back because it was something we had not done at that level before.”

Volunteer dentists like Paul Raskin, DDS, appreciated the work of the lab technicians at the clinic.

“The fact that they gave their time is admirable and we dentists should give them a hand because they are the artists,” Raskin said. “It was a luxury for the dentists and unique because if we got into a bind you could go to the lab guy for advice – they were right there at your elbow.”

The technicians will be right there at the dentists’ side at the next CDA Cares this spring if the feedback from their experience in Sacramento is any indication. Lemos recalled a specific interaction.

“I met two people who I thought were regular volunteers, but come to find out they were patients who were treated in Modesto and came up to Sacramento to give back for the care they received,” Lemos said. “They helped with setup, hauling trash and cleanup. I would highly recommend volunteering at future clinics – it’s very rewarding.”

CDA and the CDA Foundation developed CDA Cares to provide free dental services and oral health education to Californians who experience barriers to care. It is also intended to raise awareness with the public and policymakers about the need for a state dental director and infrastructure to support oral health and develop policies to improve the oral health of Californians.

The CDA Foundation is planning other CDA Cares events throughout California. The next clinic is expected to be held in the Bay Area in spring.

For more information on the clinics or to volunteer, visit the CDA Foundation website.