NK: How did you get into dental technology?
MB: As a youngster I was always very artistic, creating things, and I wanted to have a job where I would work with my hands on a day-to-day basis. So I sort of fell upon it and I really enjoy my job; I find it very rewarding. You know it’s nice being creative yet helping people at the same time. It’s an extremely practical-based job and you have to keep up with the technology.
NK: How do feel about the team approach being embraced by most dental professionals?
MB: I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve always had the facility to work quite closely with the dentists. Like when I finished college I went to a practice here in Dublin and them moved to the UK for a few years but quite a lot of the patients came to the laboratory, so we had a lot of communication with the dentist and patients. Then when we moved back to Ireland I took up a post in the Dental School and obviously they have the facility to attract all members of the dental team. I’ve been lucky in that the people I have worked with have been extremely knowledgeable in themselves. The nicest way of working with people is as part of a team and that is the best solution possible.
NK: What led you to implant work?
MB: For me implants are part of my daily routine, whether a crown for a natural tooth or an implant – they crop up as frequently as each other. I didn’t make a conscious decision to go down the implant path; it’s part of dental technology for me and has been for years.
NK: How do you think things have changed over the last decade or so?
MB: Good patients are more aware of their teeth and attending the practice more often, so maybe it allows dentist to see a problem before it might get worse and is still easily fixable. With TV programmes and magazines people see their options. You know, their teeth night be very nice but not the right colour and they might say they want something else when maybe they could just have some bleaching and see what happens, going down a path in the first instance that is not irreversible.
NK: How do you manage your time?
MB: I love to go on courses and upgrade my skills. I suppose the day you think you have learnt everything is that day you should probably retire. And I only work with one dentist, who is my husband, a prosthodontist here in Dublin, so we would go on a lot of training courses together, training simultaneously, which works out very well. We have a good working relationship. I set up my own laboratory last October so it has been demanding on my time so far. I have had to sacrifice a couple of weekends her and there. But I’m sure that goes with every business and I hope as time goes on I’ll be able to deal with things a little more effectively. I’m very happy and it’s all working out well. It’s lovely to have your own place and have the equipment that you want and you’ve chosen. It’s a one-woman lab but hopefully not for too much longer!
NK: Has there been one case of which you are particularly proud?
MB: We did a poster in Las Vegas. We had restored a lady – all her teeth were quite worn and broken down; we restored her with the NobelRondo press system. It was quite an interesting case as every tooth had either a crown or a veneer. She was really, really delighted and that’s the main thing at the end; that the patient is happy and that we’ve improved their smile.
NK: As for the future of implants, where do you see it going?
MB: I suppose it will continue to progress. I see a lot of zirconia in the future. We get nicer aesthetics already with it in the anterior using peri-abutments. Similarly, with this NobelRondo press material you are able to press onto the zirconia abutment and you have a one-piece-like tube that you can screw onto the abutment, screw into the implant, which is a nice simple procedure for both the dentist and the technician.
NK: Do you have any advice for someone looking to work in dental technology?
MB: I would say that primarily you need to enjoy your job. Like, on a day-to-day basis you need to enjoy making a restoration so that when you start having to make them in volume you are still happy and still enjoying it. And then keep up your skills by going on courses. You will always pick up something on a course that makes it worthwhile, plus you meet like-minded people. People who go on courses tend to be enthusiastic and that helps to keep your morale up on a da-to-day basis. Working in a variety of laboratories and seeing how things are done, I think, is invaluable before you set up your own business. You have to learn to do things the right way, to be able to walk before you can run as it does take a little while in dental technology, or it did for me, to pick up your speed, keeping your quality up with your quantity.
NK: Do you still meet with patients?
MB: Yes I do, which is nice. You need to meet a person, see their whole face and understand their personality to know what they can carry off, like a Hollywood-white smile. But if it’s not possible to see the patient, photography is great. But it is important to remember that photos don’t pick up everything, so for example if a person wants one anterior restoration it becomes more important for the technician to meet the patient. All we can do is advise people; some people want natural and some want it to look like they’ve had work done. So we can provide advice but restorations are expensive and if they want it a particular way… Provisional restorations may not allow nuances but the basic shape and shade are there, and allow the patient to live with them for a bit. Then when it comes to the final restorations, which of course are more expensive, hopefully you’ll get it right but that’s not always the way and is the nature of the job.
In 1996 Michelle graduated from Trinity College Dublin in dental technology with a distinction. Since then she has worked primarily in fixed prosthodontics, specialising in ceramics. Michelle has completed numerous postgraduate courses, including an MSc in dental technology. She has been involved in teaching and scientific research with dental technology and postgraduate prosthodontic students at the Dublin Dental School and Hospital for the last five years. Recently she has opened her own laboratory specialising in fixed prosthodontics and continues her role as a dental technology instructor on a part-time basis. During her career she has received numerous awards, including the Senior Ceramist Award presented by NobelBiocare at the 2007 Las Vegas World Tour.