February 2016
Volume 7, Issue 2

Bates Technical College Adds CAD/CAM Technology to Laboratory Program

Laboratory owners seeking skilled dental technicians with CAD/CAM expertise have another place to find their employees of the future.

Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Washington recently added CAD/CAM technology to its facilities, becoming just the second accredited dental technology program in the country to do so, according to the college.

“We have been working on this project for a couple years, and it was industry-driven,” says Robert V. Criss, M.Ed., CDT, TE, a Dental Laboratory Technology Instructor at Bates. “For our program to continue to be relevant and meaningful in our industry, this was necessary. We view CAD/CAM as another skillset that encompasses all aspects of our profession.”

The acquisition of the technology was recommended by the program’s advisory board, which includes dental laboratory owners and managers as well as dentists. Graduates of the program have the potential to earn higher starting wages if they have CAD/CAM training, board members noted in making their case.

Soon after that recommendation, Bates President Ron Langrell, PhD, visited advisory board member Dene LeBeau, CDT. LeBeau, also a member of Inside Dental Technology’s Editorial Advisory Board, showed Langrell a slew of dental technology magazines and asked what the common theme of the covers was. “CAD/CAM,” Langrell responded.

Once the decision was made, the college brought in Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT, of New York City College of Technology (NYCCT) to consult. NYCCT has had the only accredited dental laboratory technology program in the country with CAD/CAM technology, so Alter advised on how best to acquire and integrate technology.

Finally, with Langrell’s help, the program secured the necessary funding to purchase a scanner, a milling machine, and CAD and CAM software. A grant from the Foundation for Dental Laboratory Technology also helped fund the purchases. Matthew Chapman, owner of Chapman Dental Laboratory, Inc. in Tacoma, has provided training.

“It is really exciting,” says Kris Merriman, BS, CDT, TE, another Dental Laboratory Technology Instructor at Bates. “The declining number of dental laboratory programs in the US is going to start negatively affecting our industry. We cannot afford to lose anymore programs, and incorporating digital dentistry into our curriculum is a way to remain viable.”

Merriman has been teaching for 12 years and Criss for four, so adding CAD/CAM required a significant adjustment for them. The professors embraced it, though.

“I just consider digital technology to be another tool that we need to learn to use,” Criss says.

Students have appreciated the new technology, he adds.

“It has been a long haul for our students because they have witnessed the time and effort that we have invested to make this happen,” Criss says. “Some of them have graduated and moved on, but we hope to have them back to go through this training at some point. The current students are very excited about it.”

Bates held an open house in December, with more than 20 industry representatives, prospective students, and community members attending. Visitors were afforded the opportunity to see the new equipment and software up close.

“We hope that this will be a great recruiting tool for us,” Criss says. “Our program enrollment is down at the moment, but we hope to be at full capacity or higher soon. We believe this will help.”

The ultimate goal is for the college to build a new science facility for the Dental Laboratory Technology, Dental Assisting, Denturist, and Nursing programs in approximately five years.

“By then, we will have completely integrated this technology into our program, and we can build a new laboratory that will reflect that,” Criss says.

Another goal is to become a regional training center for anyone interested in using CAD/CAM technology. Merriman says they also hope to become a resource for other college programs around the country.

“We are here to help anybody who is interested,” she says.

To learn more about Bates Technical College’s Dental Laboratory Technology program, go to bates.ctc.edu/DentalLab or call 253-680-7002.

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