After high school, Ramona Lohman enrolled in the Art Institute of Seattle and earned a bachelor’s degree in game art and design. When she entered the workforce, Ramona searched for work in the gaming industry, but she was unsuccessful. Frustrated by the lack of jobs, and after working with no pay at a start-up game company, she considered a different path.
“Our family dentist suggested the possibility of dental lab technology,” said Ramona. “After speaking with the lab technician who was making crowns for my dentist’s practice, I began researching that career path and available training.”
When students graduate and walk into a new lab, they’re worlds above others with no prior training.
She soon discovered Bates Technical College’s Dental Lab Technician program. Ramona attended an information session, passed the dexterity entrance test, and started the program in September 2014. Students enrolled in the eight-quarter program learn to fabricate orthodontic appliances, complete and partial dentures, and gold or porcelain crowns and bridges.
“Getting your hands on every aspect in the dental lab industry helps when we begin pursuing jobs. Instructors teach how to evaluate situations and what tools to use for each task. When students graduate and they walk into a new lab, they’re worlds above others with no prior training,” said Ramona.
With her background in art, she thrived in the program. “Dental lab work is a form of commercial art, where you can take some artistic license in what we do,” explained Ramona.
During the last year of Ramona’s education, the program instructors introduced high-technology digital dentistry into the curriculum. Dental computer-aided design and manufacturing (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.
Instructor Kris Merriman said, “Not only does this program attract students who enter the industry because they are drawn to the artistry involved in dental lab work, but it also attracts those who have an affinity for computer design or other computer-related work.”
My good luck was almost unbelievable. I learned of a job opening at Crown World from my instructors, and it sounded incredibly appealing.
In her final quarter, Ramona began her work-based learning at the Kamilche Dental Center in Shelton, where she waxed up dentures for try-in and processing, trimmed and mounted models, crafted wax rims for bite registration, and other tasks to help construct removable dental prosthetics.
Ramona graduated in August 2016 with an Associate in Applied Science, and before the month was done, she landed a job.
“My good luck was almost unbelievable. I learned of a job opening at Crown World from my instructors, and it sounded incredibly appealing,” said Ramona. “I applied online, and had an informal phone interview within hours.”
Ramona noted that the job was exactly what she was hoping for after she earned her degree. In her position as Finisher/Final Quality Control, she works with a small team manufacturing zirconia crowns and bridges using a combination of digital dentistry and more traditional methods.
With the education I received from Bates, I can completely fill any position in the lab.
“With the education I received from Bates, I can completely fill any position in the lab,” she said. “I appreciate the role Bates played in arming me with marketable skills for the ever-changing job market,” said Ramona.
The Dental Lab Technician program offers an Associate in Applied Science and a Certificate of Competency. It is the only American Dental Association-accredited dental lab technician program in Washington state.
To learn more about the Dental Lab Technician program, go to www.bates.ctc.edu/DentalLab, or call 253.680.7000.