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Changing lives, one smile at a time

Upper and lower stone dental casts dry in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The dental casts are representations of a patient’s mouth to replicate a specific tooth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Upper and lower stone dental casts dry in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The dental casts are representations of a patient’s mouth to replicate a specific tooth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khodie Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, refines a working die to make a crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base Mont. When a cast is sectioned off into parts, each part is then referred to as a die. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khody Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, refines a working die to make a crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base Mont. When a cast is sectioned off into parts, each part is then referred to as a die. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khodie Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, creates a digital case file of a crown pattern using a computer-aided design and manufacturing machine in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Creating a case file is the beginning process to create a crown. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khody Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, creates a digital case file of a crown pattern using a computer-aided design and manufacturing machine in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Creating a case file is the beginning process to create a crown. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khodie Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, holds a completed gold crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. A gold crown is made if a patient’s natural tooth is decaying and can no longer be repaired by fillings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khody Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, holds a completed gold crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. A gold crown is made if a patient’s natural tooth is decaying and can no longer be repaired by fillings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khodie Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, sections a cast into dies for a gold crown using a hand saw in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The die is the reproduction of the tooth consisting of a hard substance like metal, stone or resin. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khody Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, sections a cast into dies for a gold crown using a hand saw in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The die is the reproduction of the tooth consisting of a hard substance like metal, stone or resin. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khodie Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, steam cleans a gold crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The final process of creating a gold crown includes cleaning and polishing the compounds with the steamer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

Staff Sgt. Khody Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, steam cleans a gold crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The final process of creating a gold crown includes cleaning and polishing the compounds with the steamer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

A milling cabinet machine mills a tooth for a crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The machine can mill implants, bridges, veneers and temporary teeth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

A milling cabinet machine mills a tooth for a crown in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The machine can mill implants, bridges, veneers and temporary teeth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

An impression of a patient’s teeth is shown encased in dental stone in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Dental stone takes the shape of the impression mold as a representation of the patient’s teeth to get the correct sizing of each tooth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

An impression of a patient’s teeth is shown encased in dental stone in the dental laboratory Dec. 5, 2016, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Dental stone takes the shape of the impression mold as a representation of the patient’s teeth to get the correct sizing of each tooth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- When the word dental comes up people typically think of teeth cleaning and cavity filling, but there is much more to it than that.

Aside from the dental clinic, the dental laboratory is where dental technicians like Staff Sgt. Khody Morgan, 341st Medical Operations Squadron dental laboratory technician, assist in general dentistry.

“As a dental lab tech my job is to assist the dentist in crafting and creating custom dental prostheses,” Morgan said.

Dental laboratory technicians can also assist in oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics and pediatric dentistry.

“It is job satisfaction to know that we play a hand in making someone’s smile better,” said Master Sgt. Apolonio Santos, 341st MDOS NCO in charge of the dental laboratory.

Santos and Morgan are a two-man shop at Malmstrom, and things can sometimes get pretty busy.

“This job has a steady work-flow coming in and out,” Morgan said. “The Area Dental Laboratory offers relief for case overflow if it gets too much for us, or if the doctor needs a special appliance made.”

The Area Dental Laboratory is located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

The dental laboratory also has the capability to make sports guards free of charge for members participating in intramural sports.

“Sports guards and night guards are a one-day turnaround,” Morgan said. “We have to make sure the process is started as soon as the doctor brings the impressions in, because they begin to distort 12 minutes after leaving the patient’s mouth.”

The workload is based on the Dental Laboratory Work Authorization form, which the doctor brings in.

“On the form, the doctor states everything that needs to be accomplished for the patient,” Apolonio said. “We use many different things to get the job done such as wax, ceramics, porcelain, acrylic and even gold.”

In their career, dental laboratory technicians can become master certified dental technician.

According to nbccert.org, less than 1 percent of all certified dental technicians are master certified dental technicians.

“To become a master CDT, the technician must earn certification in at least five consultation and dental treatment courses,” Morgan said.

The courses include complete dentures, partial dentures, crown and bridge, orthodontics, ceramics and implants.

“Having the master CDT allows the technician the opportunity to advance in their job,” Apolonio said.

Inside the dental clinic are many jobs beyond the dentist and dental technician who look at the teeth.

“Our job is executed behind the scenes,” Morgan said. “We rarely get to meet the people we make things for, but we do feel a sense of accomplishment knowing we played a big role in someone’s life.”
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