Top 25 Women in Dentistry: Wilma Peterson, Manager of Education for Glidewell Laboratories

October 3, 2012
Profiles by Anna Sacks
Profiles by Anna Sacks

Issue 9

Wilma Peterson has been working in dental technology for 55 years and has always loved the field. Her journey has been an adventure, taking her all over the world and making her the strong and knowledgeable woman she is today. “I wasn’t afraid to take chances, and get the knowledge I needed and do anything I needed to advance my profession,” she said. “When I started in dentistry, so long ago, there was one woman in the lab, and it was me.”

Wilma Peterson has been working in dental technology for 55 years and has always loved the field. Her journey has been an adventure, taking her all over the world and making her the strong and knowledgeable woman she is today.

“I wasn’t afraid to take chances, and get the knowledge I needed and do anything I needed to advance my profession,” she said. “When I started in dentistry, so long ago, there was one woman in the lab, and it was me.”

Peterson started her own lab after working in different labs in the beginning of her career. Back then, there were very few women in the industry and many of them saw it as a part-time job, but Peterson was different.

“When the other women technicians saw that a woman could own a successful lab, and the dentists respected and used my lab, many other women started their own labs,” she said. “I felt good about that.”

The best advice she’s received came early in her career from a lab owner when she was working in his lab in South Dakota, and was struggling.

“I said I can’t do this, I want to quit, I’m no good at it,” she recalled.  “He looked at me and said, yeah, anybody can quit but if it was easy we wouldn’t need you anyway. I can do it, does that mean I’m better than you? And that made me stubborn and I said, no you’re not, I’m going to do it.”

From then on, Peterson was determined to succeed.

Her favorite part of her job in the beginning was designing and building porcelain and making a tooth look beautiful. She loved seeing the patients when they put the crowns in the mouth, and being the one to check the shade and see how they looked and get all the feedback from the patients.

Later in life, she tried a new path in her career and pursued her passion in the environment. Peterson moved to the Philippines at age 60 to do dental work. While there she helped people in need, but the most memorable work she did was dental work on animals, like beaks on birds, backs on turtles and crowns on jaguars. She considers that work the most inspiring she’s done in her career.

Today, she’s sharing her knowledge with young people who are interested in becoming dental technicians, and it’s something she really loves.

“I have all this knowledge, and I don’t want it to die with me. I want to share it,” she said. The most rewarding part is working with those students to find the right fit in the industry for their interests and strengths.

For the future, Peterson hopes to continue teaching her students and sharing her life with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.