Great Shape Volunteers Lead Establishment of a Dental Prosthetic Lab at UTech
Dental Lab Irlbeck and McKenzie
Dr. Irving McKenzie (right), Dean, College of Oral Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) and Mr. Bob Irlbeck, Retired Dental Technician and Great Shape! Inc. volunteer examine dentures and partial dentures being produced in the College’s newly established Dental Prosthetic Laboratory at its Arthur Wint Drive campus, St. Andrew.
Many Jamaicans will have more reasons to smile, thanks to the humanitarian work being done to provide free dentures and partial dentures at the University of Technology, Jamaica’s (UTech) recently established Dental Prosthetic Laboratory at the School of Oral Health Sciences, through its partnership with Great Shape! Inc.
Great Shape! Inc is the world’s largest non-profit international humanitarian dental programme. It brings US volunteers to Jamaica annually to provide dental care at mobile clinics as well as to provide oral health education.
The Dental Prosthetic Laboratory is the first of its kind established at any oral health training facility in Jamaica and has been set up with the support of Great Shape! volunteers, Bob and Dr. Sonja Irlbeck working along with members of faculty, staff and UTech’s Dental Laboratory Technician students.
Bob Irlbeck, an expert in making acrylic dentures, is a retired US Dental Technician and has worked in the fields for decades. He explained that his motivation to help Jamaicans who are unable to afford access to dental care, began when he and his wife, Sonja were on vacation in Montana, USA last year and his expertise was requested by dentist, Myron Hendrickson who has been working with Great Shape! on its mission trips to Jamaica to help with the 1,000 Smiles initiative.
They journeyed to Jamaica in November 2014 to begin the first phase of establishing the lab at UTech’s, College of Oral Health Sciences and returned in February of this year following his shipment of equipment through Great Shape! They have since completed the process and began making dentures and partial dentures for Jamaican citizens in rural communities through Great Shape!
The Lab is now fully operational and has been set up with state-of-the art equipment comparable to the best of such facilities in the world. Referring to the Ivocap Injection System in the lab, Irlbeck notes, “I tell people that this is the best system in the world and I know because in the United States we have all the systems. This is the best and I decided to bring the best system to Jamaica.” He also brought along with him, manuals from his own collection to help with teaching and learning. Dr. Sonja Irlbeck, who is an educational training consultant with a PhD in Curriculum Development, has also been working with members of faculty and administration at the College in curriculum development.
Bob Irlbeck, working along with UTech Dental Technology students have so far provided several complete removable dentures and partial removable dentures for the Great Shape Mission in rural Jamaica. He noted that he hopes to have six completed dentures comprising full dentures, partials, upper dentures and lower dentures before he departs Jamaica. Emphasizing how pleased he is to be of service, he said “this is a win-win…the students are learning a skill they wouldn’t have otherwise and the free labour helps keep the cost of making dentures low.” He pointed out that in the US, a full denture can cost between $2,000 to $3,000.
Dr Irlbeck and student
Dental Laboratory Technician student Miss Shekelia Wright shows a model of a partial denture to Dr. Sonja Irlbeck, Education Consultant and Great Shape! Volunteer.
Explaining the significance of the new training facility and laboratory, which he notes is valued at over $12M, Dr. Irving McKenzie, Dean, College of Oral Health Sciences, said that “the Dental Laboratory Technician (DLT) students will see and have a hands-on appreciation of the process of preparing dentures for real patients and they will know what to do in aligning the teeth and getter proper impressions to send to the lab,” pointing out that some dentists are currently not sending proper impressions to labs for use in building dentures for their patients.
Dr. McKenzie expressed deep gratitude to Irlbeck for personally building required tables and other infrastructure needed for the lab and in some cases using his own funds and support from family to do so. He also thanked Great Shape! for its commitment to supporting the development of UTech’s oral health programmes since the inception of the College. “They have provided us with gloves, equipment and immeasurable amount of sundries,” he noted, “as well as externship training for DMD, Dental Hygiene, Dental Assisting and Dental Laboratory Technician students.”
IRLBECK WITH FIRST DENTURES
Mr. Bob Irlbeck (centre), Retired Dental Technician, student Ushane Benjamin, and Miss Symonette Wright, Lab Instructor, UTech shows off the first denture made at the newly established Dental Prosthetic Laboratory at UTech’s College of Oral Health Sciences.