A little while ago, I found Oliwia’s Instagram page which contained some fascinating images of orthodontic appliances she makes for patients. I hope you enjoy reading this interview and gain an insight into the incredible work undertaken by orthodontic technicians.
Please introduce yourself
Hi! My name is Oliwia and I come from Poland but I work and live in the Netherlands. I’ve lived in the Netherlands for 2 years.
What is an orthodontic technician and what kind of appliances do you make?
For me, an orthodontic technician is a person who designs and constructs orthodontic appliances used to straighten teeth. We use our knowledge to plan the appliances in collaboration with an orthodontist. Orthodontic technicians usually have no contact with patients. I finished school in Poland as a dental technician where I learned to make dentures, bridges, crowns and also orthodontic appliances. I choose to go with ortho because I got a nice opportunity to work in a big lab. I also really like it. I found something that I’m good in 🙂 but, of course, I still need a lot of practice. I still have a lot of to learn but after years I understood that I have the skills required for ortho. At this moment I work mainly with fixed appliances. I make appliances like: hyrax, herbst (different variations), quad helix, tpa, nance etc. and also basic splints. I can make other stuff but my lab is very big so everyone has their own things to do.
Why did you decide to undertake a career as an orthodontic technician?
It was just a coincidence. My dad once worked for an orthodontist and I saw the actual lab and appliances. In that time I was already at the university in Poznań as a Zootechnician 🙂 i knew for long time it wasn’t the work for me so I finished it after 3.5 years as an engineer and started school for dental technicians.
What did the training involve?
In the beginning it was very very hard. Everything was new. It needs a lot of practice and training. Not only at school but also at home. Now I laugh about that. I remember when I had my first class in ortho we started with making Adam’s clasps. After 4 hours I was so angry and I said that I will never learn to bend a wire and I don’t like orthodontics! And look where I’m here now Haha. I see a big difference between the beginning and now. But it takes a lot of practice and I’m still not as good as I want to be.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
I think its awesome just to get only a model and to plan and to make the whole appliance by yourself. You make something from scratch that’s important in treatment. I like it when clients are happy about my work. That, I make a good job. Everyday there is another patient and another problem to solve. I think my work is interesting that’s why I enjoy it.
Some of the appliances you have posted photos of on Instagram I would imagine are quite a challenge to get used to. Do you ever wonder what it would be like to wear these yourself?
Of course! I always think how it would be to wear it by myself! Its very important! If you forget and start to make appliances automatically it would be not 100% good. You always have to see a person behind this model and make it as comfortable as possible for them. Sometimes orthodontists plan this crazy appliance and I have to make it as they want it so then I’m very sorry for person who needs to wear it haha. At school I had a really good teacher, he always said that we have to make a good appliance that also we would like to wear it. If you don’t want to put the appliance or denture into your mouth don’t give it to the client!
What do you think is the most challenging appliance to get used to and how do you try to make the appliance as comfortable as possible?
I can’t imagine what it is like to wear a herbst type zaandam (it’s a herbst on bands on the upper jaw and the lower is acrylic). Haha I make a lot of them and I always feel so sorry for these patients! Like I said before I always try to think how this person will feel in the appliance. If it has a lot of wires I try to make it as less irritating as possible. Sometimes it’s very hard. Most of times those appliances are not comfortable at all!
Have you ever had orthodontic treatment yourself?
Yes, I have but it was a very short treatment and very long time ago so I need it again
Do you ever receive updates from orthodontists about the appliances you have made and how it has contributed to giving someone a lovely smile?
Yes! And I’m very proud of it! I like to know that my appliance was 100% good and it’s working as its should be. Then I know that my hard work is worth it!
What appliances do you most enjoy making and why?
In this lab we have a lot of clients and not always as much time as we want. But it’s like that in every lab! I like it when I get appliances that are different, it’a another challenge for me.
Which appliances are the most difficult to make?
I think everyone has different opinion about that. I remember when I started with an acrylic herbst (zaandam) I was terrified! Haha now it’s just a normal appliance. Everything is difficult in the beginning. With practice it’s just get easier and easier.
How has digital orthodontics (scanning etc.) impacted your work as an orthodontic technician?
In my school it was just a future but very far far away. I see even a difference between 2 years in that we get more and more 3D models. It’s only matter of time before digital orthodontics will be something normal for us.
How many appliances would you make in an average month?
Oh it’s hard to say. It depends what kind of work is coming and how busy I am. But I can tell you that if I have to, I can make (not really complicated ones) 16 hyrax’s a day! (8h) or 6 herbst for example. But it’s just an ideal situation. In real life is not that easy!
And finally, what meal would you cook for someone who has just had one of your more challenging appliances fitted (I’m thinking something like the RPE / tongue crib you posted a photo of recently)
I think I would make them a strawberry shake with ice cream and give this person a straw! Hahaha of course reusable one!
Thank you. You can visit Oliwia’s Instagram page here.