A day in the life of a dental lab technician

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Dentures, crowns and night guards are just some of the unusual products made at the Peterson Area Dental Lab for personnel worldwide.

Senior Airman Jonathon Stambaugh has been a lab technician for the ADL for more than two years, working on crowns along with other projects. He also trains and assists with advanced laser welding techniques, facilitates the Dental Airman Helping Airman program, and coordinates volunteer projects and professional development.

Creating the crowns can be a time-consuming process.

To begin, Stambaugh receives a case and a mold requesting a crown or multiple crowns. He then creates a tooth out of wax. It will then get coated with a hard clay-like material and baked until all the wax melts out. The hard casing will then get coated in gold with possibly a porcelain coat on top of that to match the natural tooth color.

"The process sounds pretty easy but there are a lot of little steps in between to make the tooth fit well and look great," Stambaugh said. "Depending on the project, one crown will take approximately an entire day versus a case needing 10 teeth may take close to two weeks."

Stambaugh said he joined the Air Force to go back to school and is currently studying biology at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

"I want to be a dentist someday down the road, and dental school is partially like dental lab technical school, so this job experience sets me up for success in that," he said.

On top of school and his normal case load, he has also been entrusted with the Air Force's largest register of precious metals and alloys, and also augments the ADLs shipping and receiving department that tracks all the incoming and outgoing case work, said Senior Master Sgt. Leticia Johnson, the ADL superintendent.

"Senior Airman Stambaugh has proven to not only be a great laboratory technician, but also a superb future leader and noncommissioned officer," Johnson said. "The best part of Stambaugh is his infectious can-do attitude and willingness to provide nothing but his best."

The technicians work on anything from removable to fixed works. Types of removable pieces are dentures, night guards and other pieces that can be removed on a daily basis. Fixed works cannot be removed, for example, crowns.

The Peterson ADL is the largest of three ADLs, servicing more than 550 dentists at 121 facilities worldwide, with 53 active-duty and 19 civilian or contract technicians to work the incoming cases. The other two ADLs are at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and Ramstein AB, Germany.

Peterson not only has the ADL, but its own dental lab in the dental clinic. The technicians in both labs perform almost the same duties except the ADL's customers are from outside the base and the base lab's customers come from down the hall.