Computer-aided design and manufacturing is the next generation of dentistry, and Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Wash. now has the state-of-the-art equipment that will give future dental laboratory technicians a reason to smile.
The CAD/CAM technology was the focus of the Dental Lab Technician program’s Open House in December, where more than 20 industry representatives, prospective students, and community members joined the program to explore the new equipment and software.
“Bates Technical College provides students with one of the best education opportunities in the dental field,” said Matthew Chapman, owner of Chapman Dental Laboratory, Inc. in Tacoma. “Bates is the only accredited dental laboratory program on the West Coast to implement the dental CAD/CAM education into their curriculum,” said Chapman, who added that the college can now offer CAD/CAM continuing education to those in the dental laboratory industry.
Dental CAD/CAM allows dentists and lab technicians to customize appliances specifically for patients, with increased accuracy, a more precise fit, better aesthetics, and a quick turnaround for efficiency.
Dental lab program instructor Bob Criss noted that digital restorative dentistry is here to stay, and will be the standard going forward. “Our industry is telling us that CAD/CAM technology is a necessary tool for the 21st Century dental laboratory technician tool belt,” he said.
Co-instructor Kristina Merriman added, “Not only will we attract students who enter the industry because they are drawn to the artistry involved in dental laboratory work, but it will now attract those who have an affinity for computer design or other computer-related work, though the artistry will always be a draw,” she said.
Students enrolled in the program learn to fabricate orthodontic appliances, complete and partial dentures, and gold or porcelain crowns and bridges. The program offers an Associate in Applied Science and a Certificate of Competency. It is the only American Dental Association-accredited dental laboratory technician program in Washington state.
“We are privileged to add this technology to our program and region. Keeping our curriculum relevant and meaningful to our students and the industry we serve remains a high priority. After all, as dental professionals, it is our goal to give the patient the most accurate fitting and esthetically-appealing restorations possible,” added Criss.