Q +A: Bennett Napier

March 21, 2012
Issue 4

01 The NADL launched the Foundation for Dental Laboratory Technology in 2008. Can you tell us about the foundation and why it was created?

01 The NADL launched the Foundation for Dental Laboratory Technology in 2008. Can you tell us about the foundation and why it was created?

The foundation was based on the premise that only the dental laboratory industry controls its own destiny. There needed to be a charitable vehicle to bridge the gap between formal education and training present in today’s marketplace. The foundation’s mission is to advance the profession of dental laboratory technology by addressing industry driven needs and providing solutions that are relevant and accessible to dental technicians and other members of the dental team. NADL contributed $200,000 to launch the foundation.

02 What are some challenges technicians face when it comes to education? 

The challenges technicians face are centered on knowledge erosion, which we define as the loss of the knowledge provided by technicians who may leave the profession in the next 5 to 15 years. We consider this one of the greatest threats to the dental profession. By identifying three specific challenges, the foundation is focusing our near-term goals on creating solutions as building blocks to creating future opportunities. The challenges are: The declining number of educated dental technicians; the disparity between what dental technicians are expected to know and the availability and accessibility of the knowledge; and rapidly changing technology and the shift from the dentist to the technician for information on emerging technologies and materials.

03 How does the foundation plan to address those challenges? 

Ultimately, the foundation is a vehicle to affect change in a positive manner. The foundation’s success rests solely on the ability to fundraise and reinvest the money back into the market to deliver programs and meet objectives that meet the foundation’s mission. We are working to raise $1 million in pledges.

04 What are some of the foundation’s goals? 

For 2011 we plan to Identify accessible education and link it to occupational standards as a map for dental technicians and their employers; create grants for educational institutions that offer programs in dental laboratory technology; and develop a Web-based Career Ladder for dental technicians. We also have goals set for 2012 and 2013, including developing an occupational awareness campaign aimed at attracting high school students into the profession; creating a national curriculum; and researching the need for higher level degrees.

05 How do you plan to achieve those goals? 

Through the work of volunteer committees made up of subject matter experts. There are two major committees, the Education Committee and a Fundraising Committee. We also have a committed group of leaders on the board of Trustees headed by Chair R.J. DeLapa Jr., United Dental Labs, Akron, Ohio, and Vice Chair Barbara Warner Wojdan, CDT, AACD from Knight Dental Group, CDL, DAMAS, Oldsmar, Fla.

06 How has education and training in the industry changed?

The same basic principles of teaching haven’t changed. The framework of formal education is based on the premise that technicians with a comprehensive view of dental technology can be of higher value because they have an appreciation of how the puzzle pieces fit together across different specialties. This is important in today’s market because of the complexity of the case planning and material options available. Successful laboratories have used technology not only a as a tool to increase production but also as a resource to help teach basic skills.

07 What is the NADL’s place in that changing landscape? 

NADL has been around for more than 50 years and like any association with longevity has had to reinvent itself several times. NADL is respected and looked at as the advocate for the industry and profession by organized dentistry and the government. Our goal is to expand our ability to serve the industry through a better understanding of why NADL exists.

08 How is the foundation positioned to help technicians find opportunities for learning?

NADL is a conduit. The foundation’s mission as it relates to education and training is to help individuals in the industry understand this is a business and to offer tools and resources that allow people to succeed in a highly competitive and increasingly expensive light manufacturing market. We serve as a medium to coordinate and categorize existing education and training opportunities so individuals can see how courses relate back to a national competency standard.

09 How important is it for labs to keep up-to-date on the latest technologies and techniques? 

It's imperative. It has been widely covered both in dentistry and dental laboratory trade press that dentists today are not receiving adequate education or training on restorative dentistry. This leaves a huge responsibility for technicians to maintain life long learning to stay abreast of material and equipment changes that allow us to better serve dentistry and the dental patient.

10 How can people get involved with the foundation? 

We have opportunities for volunteers to serve on committees or on the board of trustees. You also can make a contribution. We have contributors of up to $50,000 down to individual technicians who contribute $25 a year. Every little bit adds up and makes a difference. Visit dentallabfoundation.org or dltfoundation.org, which houses the new online CE registry.