Legacy Laboratories: Harting Dental Arts Lab Inc.

March 21, 2012

Amos Harting, president of Harting Dental Arts Lab Inc. in St. Louis, bears more than just his father’s name. Like his predecessor, having artistic aptitude and mechanical skill have helped him thrive in the business.

Amos Harting, president of Harting Dental Arts Lab Inc. in St. Louis, bears more than just his father’s name. Like his predecessor, having artistic aptitude and mechanical skill have helped him thrive in the business.

His father, also named Amos Harting, was fresh out of the armed services in the late 1940s when he was tapped to become a dental technician by his uncle, Weldon Niesling, who was a dentist who also operated a small dental lab.

“My dad got out of the Navy and my uncle knew my dad was good with his hands and a good artist,” said Harting “That’s a paradox. It’s rare to have those skills together.”

While today there are thousands of dental labs throughout the U.S., they were not as common in post-war America. It was not unusual for a dentist to fill the void by operating their own small labs.

“There weren’t a lot of labs at that point,” said Amos Harting Jr. “A lot of dentist did their own gold work.”

The elder Amos Harting worked for his uncle for about 10 years before launching his own lab in 1957 where he focused “on waxing, casting and gold crowns. That’s what they did back in the 1950s,” said Harting who joined the company in 1977.

Being able to use those same skills-artistic ability and technical aptitude-are part of what Harting enjoys about the business. It’s also crucial to the success of any lab.

“The big part in matching teeth is in the dental technicians skill, and in the materials and the knowledge of materials,” he said.

Harting wasn’t planning on entering the business after college where he studied criminal justice. But his father asked him if he wanted to come aboard and he decided it would be a good move. He also went on to get an associate’s degree in dental technology.

As company president, Harting has overseen the growth of the 10-person lab into new areas of expertise such as partials, dentures and hybrids. He estimates that about 75 percent of the business is generated from crowns and bridges and 25 percent is from removables.

Hybrids are popular among people who want to replace their dentures and seek a better fit.

“They’re more like natural teeth,” he said. “They don’t flop around in their mouths. Dentists like them because they’re removable and more repairable.”

Focusing on hybrids “has made our business more diverse,” Harting added. “It also gives the dentist more options.”

He said his company gets calls from other dental labs to do handle tough cases such as central incisors, which are hard to match.

“It’s the hardest tooth in the mouth to do,” he said. “You can clearly see if the shade and shape don’t match. They (other labs) don’t want to do it because they can’t do it right and they have to do it over and over again.”

As proof of its expertise Harting Dental Arts Lab provides continuing education classes for dentists.

“We bring dentists in for educational seminars,” he said. “It adds value to our lab.”

Harting also has worked with Vident, Nobel Biocare and other companies for many years teaching seminars on such topics as aesthetics, removable restorations and porcelain building to other technicians throughout the country.

“The best part of teaching is that I have friends from all around the country because of it,” he said.

A third generation in the family also has gotten into the business. Harting’s sons Blake and Barret handle porcelain where, once again, those seemingly opposing talents of artistic and mechanical skills come into play.

Blake said he likes the job because “it’s open to your creative interpretation. You can really make something amazing and pretty. It’s fun to work with a paint brush and in the sculpting and building process.”

Barret said he enjoys spending time on the bench with family.

“It’s fun to work with family,” he said. “You can have a level of comfort that you don’t get with a boss you don’t know. You can talk about anything.”

Harting said, "getting to work alongside his sons is just one more bonus of his job."

“I love going to work on Monday because I love my job,” he said.