Meet Lab Coordinator Andrea! She manages our Orthodontic Associates’ in-house lab where we make custom orthodontic appliances, such as retainers. It was Andrea’s late dad, Luis, who first worked at the Orthodontic Associates’ lab from 2009 till his untimely death in 2018. He used to come home to his family smelling of acrylic from the lab. Andrea loved the acrylic scent on her dad, and she enjoyed hearing him talk about the family-friendly work environment with a smile on his face.
“When a position came available, he asked me if I wanted to work with him, and I jumped at the chance,” she said. “Making retainers came to natural to me, and I loved working a creative job next to my dad. He taught me everything. Most importantly, he taught me to always treat others with respect and kindness.”
Retainers are appliances usually worn after you complete braces or Invisalign treatment to hold your new smile in place. It is important to wear your retainers always. If not, then your old smile will slowly start to move back in place.
We have labs at our OKC Hefner office and both Edmond locations and three lab team members who work hard to provide our patients with shorter wait times on their orthodontic appliances as opposed to waiting on a third-party lab.
Andrea is excited to share more about her job and why she is passionate about what she does each day.
What are the most common orthodontic appliances you make each week?
Andrea: The most popular appliance that we make is a type of clear retainer called an “etainer.” Etainers are clear plastic, removable upper and lower retainers that patients receive when they finish their orthodontic treatment.
Depending on what the orthodontist prescribes, we typically make these 4 types of retainers:
- Etainer – Clear plastic, removable retainers made in our office lab with our new 3D printer. These look and function similarly to Invisalign clear aligners.
- Hawley – This traditional type of retainer is a combination of hard plastic, sometimes with fun acrylic colors for kids, connected by a thin metal wire. The Hawley’s plastic portion is molded to fit comfortably to the roof of your mouth while the wire fits across your front teeth holding them in place.
- Partial Denture/Flipper Tooth Retainer – This is a removable retainer that has one or more prosthetic teeth attached to the upper or lower part of the retainer. This is made for patients who have missing teeth. A prosthetic tooth can be added to an etainer or a Hawley.
- Permanent Retainer – A permanent retainer is a solid wire that can be attached to the back inside of your teeth to prevent them from shifting.
Retainers are popular with dogs too! Make sure to store your retainer away in its case inside a drawer or on a shelf where your curious pets can’t chew on them!
What do you want patients and parents to know about the Orthodontic Associates lab?
I love that my job helps to provide more confidence and longevity to patients’ new smiles. I love working with my hands and being creative, so this is the perfect career for me. Making retainers is so relaxing. It’s like my Disneyland.
I also want patients to know that we make each patient their own custom-made appliance designed to fit their smile. If a patient wants pink or purple sparkles on their Hawley retainer, we can do it! Let us know how you want us to customize your retainer!
What is the 3D orthodontic printer in the lab?
Our newest and most exciting piece of equipment in the lab is our 3D printer. it helps us have the most accurate models through a digital scan instead of taking messy, gooey impressions on patients. If a patient loses their retainer for any reason, we can use the scan to remake their retainer instead of having an impression remade.
What is a common problem you see with patient’s retainers?
The most common problem that we see with patients and their appliances is that they are sometimes misplaced, forgotten or the dog thinks the appliance is a treat for them. It is common for retainers to be left on napkins at restaurants, thrown in the trash or thrown in the washer. We are human, and anything can happen!
If the appliance doesn’t fit right or it becomes lost, just give our office a call, and we will happily make a new one!