Unusual Career Path Leads to High-End Laboratory
Owner’s passion for esthetics continues with arrival of CAD/CAM
Back in the 1970s when Mike Bellerino was working in construction, he had no idea that the field of dental technology existed. The first he heard of it was from his barber, Ben White.
That conversation about Japanese ceramists fabricating lifelike teeth from glass piqued Bellerino’s interest. He enrolled in the dental technology program at Louisiana State University (LSU), and 4 decades later he now owns Trinident Dental Laboratory, a successful high-end facility in Metairie, Louisiana.
“I was struggling in the 1970s,” Bellerino recalls. “I had barely finished high school and had attended only one semester of college. I started working in the construction business and discovered how much I enjoyed working with my hands. I had a passion for crafting things.”
Instead of sitting in a college lecture hall with 300 students, Bellerino received hands-on experience in the 12-person dental technology program at LSU. He graduated second in his class.
“I fell in love with dental technology,” he says.
Bellerino first worked in a large commercial laboratory for 1 year before being introduced—by White—to one of the top occlusion dentists in the New Orleans area, Joseph Tusa, DDS. Tusa was building a new office and was seeking a dental technician to open a laboratory in the same building.
The first day Bellerino arrived to work, Tusa presented him with a plane ticket to Florida to visit the Pankey Institute.
“He did not want me to work on any of his cases until I had attended the Pankey Institute to further my education in the field,” Bellerino says. “The interesting thing was that the plane ticket home was first class.”
Bellerino has focused on producing first-class work ever since. He has become a passionate proponent of photography, enlarging images on a big screen to analyze his work.
As Bellerino’s reputation grew, his clientele’s standards rose. Dentists and their patients began to expect only the best from Trinident.
“Not only do I push myself to create the most natural-looking teeth, but my clients push me,” he says. “They are extremely demanding. It is not just about making a beautiful tooth; it is about relating to the psychological part of a patient’s personality. We sell more than just a tooth. We integrate the science and art of what we do with these different, sometimes extremely difficult, personalities.”
One of the first products Bellerino purchased when he opened the laboratory 36 years ago was a vacuum mixer from Whip Mix. So when he decided to buy CAD/CAM equipment 2 years ago, he chose to work with Whip Mix again. It only made sense, then, to use Whip Mix’s Vericore ZR HT when he was milling zirconia.
“Vericore is the only zirconia material I am familiar with, and I have had no reason to change that,” Bellerino says. “The most important factor is the esthetics when the restoration is in the mouth. If it is esthetic, if it disappears, if it blends in, then the material is doing everything that I need it to do.”
Bellerino had been creating full-mouth, all-ceramic, feldspathic restorations for more than 30 years with no chipping or breaking, he says. So it was with some hesitancy that he ventured into the realm of zirconia.
However, the Vericore ZR HT material has met his standards. “Not just my standards, but the patients’ standards,” he says. “As the material continues to become closer to what we see in nature, it becomes a much easier material for us to utilize.”
The other benefits of milling zirconia are significant. A full-mouth case that previously required a day or two of waxing up now needs less than an hour of refining after it is designed using CAD software.
“It has minimized the amount of time that I spend before I do my layering,” Bellerino says. “The product is more esthetic than ever with a lot less work.”
None of that convenience would matter, however, if the material did not enable him to create lifelike restorations—his passion ever since that pivotal conversation about dental technology in the barbershop.
All those years later, Bellerino still goes to the same barber. Trinident, after all, is just 5 miles away from White’s shop. “He has sent us a lot of clients over the years, too,” Bellerino says. “He connects people.”
VeriCore Milling Discs
Made with strength and beauty, Vericore® milling discs are state-of-the-art milling materials that will satisfy you, your dentists, and most importantly, the patient. From highly translucent zirconia for monolithic restorations or substructures, to PMMA burnout and temporary materials to wax, Whip Mix offers a wide variety of materials in sizes from 10 mm to 25 mm.
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