Grin and Bear It: Dentures Made at SHS Dental Lab

Most people who visit the dental offices at Swope Health Services barely notice the doorway leading to the Dental Lab. That’s where you’ll find a room that’s a combination workshop and studio for Keith Halvorsen, Dental Lab Technician.

His role is to make the dentures and partial dentures needed by SHS patients. This makes him something of an artist and an engineer. He works to get the most natural look and the best possible fit for his patients.

Halvorsen works closely with the six dentists at SHS. When one of them recommends a partial or full replacement denture for a patient, he participates in the discussion.

“My favorite part of the job is interacting with patients,” he said, noting that in his prior experience, working in a commercial lab, he never got to meet the people who used the restorations he created.

denturesAt SHS, when a dentist advises a patient to get teeth pulled for a partial or full set of dentures, Halvorsen helps guide the patient through the five-step process:

  1. At the first appointment, the dentist makes an evaluation and recommendation. Halvorsen comes in for an initial check and makes preliminary impressions while the teeth in question are still in place. In this phase, he’s looking to see if the patient’s bone structure can support the new denture.
  1. With a decision to move forward, a second, more usable impression is required. This one helps him plan out where the replacement teeth in the denture will fit, after the original teeth are pulled.
  1. On the patient’s third visit, he’ll make a bite rim. This is a template that shows how the patient’s jaws bite together. It’s necessary to make sure that the replacement teeth will be comfortable when the patient is talking and chewing. Each person’s mouth is unique, so the bite rim has to be customized for each patient. In this visit, he’ll also make notations about the fit, mark the centerline of the patient’s face for symmetry, and help determine the right color for the replacement teeth.
  1. At the next appointment, the patient tries out the wax model denture with the artificial teeth to make sure it looks and feels right. The patient has to be comfortable with the look and feel of the replacements. It’s only when the patient signs off that the final product is created.
  1. The last meeting is when the patient receives the final, completed denture, which is made of hard acrylic materials. It is also at this time that any final adjustments are made.

The entire process typically takes about a month, but emergency work can occur much faster.

Halvorsen is proud of his work, but admits he really wouldn’t mind if the demand was less. He wishes people would take better care of their teeth and not need dentures or partial replacements.

“Nothing can replace your natural teeth,” he said. “As good as our work is, it will never be as strong or feel as good as your real teeth. I love doing this work, but I hate seeing it come down to that — an artificial replacement for natural teeth.”

dentalHalvorsen’s Recommendations for Healthy Teeth

  • Brush your teeth after every meal. — Yes, carry a toothbrush with you or keep a spare at work. If you can’t brush after every meal, at least try to rinse with mouthwash.
  • Get in the habit of flossing your teeth. Every day. Make it part of your morning or evening ritual.
  • Avoid sweet syrupy soda drinks and candy. The sugars coat your teeth and, over time, eat away at the enamel. If you absolutely must drink soda, at least use a straw so the sugars don’t get a chance to coat your teeth.
  • See a dentist twice a year for a check-up and cleaning. If you have any tooth pain or other issues, see a dentist immediately.

Do you have questions about dental care? Leave a comment below. Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment in the SHS Dental Clinic. Our adult dental care clinic is often fully booked, so we encourage you to schedule now. 

Watch the 2 minute video to see how Keith Halverson makes dentures!

(If you’re unable to see the “Making Dentures” video, you can see it on YouTube.)

6 replies
  1. Carole Eagleman-Boston El
    Carole Eagleman-Boston El says:

    I really need to get to a dentist,my teeth are terrible and all i have is Medicaid over the years ive neglected my teeth do to me not having any kind of dental insurance. I really need to make a appointment.

  2. John Billows
    John Billows says:

    I think it is very cool the amount of work that goes into creating a set of fitted dentures for someone. Just as you point out in step 2 the dentist has to create an impression of the person’s teeth so they can create a pair that will fit perfectly into their mouth. No two pairs of dentures are the same, so everyday and every time they make a pair it must be another adventure.

  3. Herbert Hoover
    Herbert Hoover says:

    I’d definitely agree with Halvorsen, after wearing dentures for the last 10 years I really wish I had taken better care of my teeth. I recently opted for dental implants after my Potomac dentist recommended them and they are much closer to “natural” teeth than my denture and they have even made me look younger!

  4. Shirley Brown
    Shirley Brown says:

    I wonder, when the dental artist strives for a “natural color” can the patient opt for the whitest ones available even it they don’t look natural?


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