One thing comes to mind when picturing dentures: the old movie stereotype of a pair of ill-fitting teeth on false gums and a set of springs, jammed into the mouth of a senior. The whole sordid set up is then dropped into a glass of fizzing water on a bedside at night.
Alex Hupka, a Richmond-area denturist, is working to dispel this misconception.
“A lot of people don't realize just how precise our work is,” he says.
Alex has been in the dental field since 1976, when he was a young man he began working as a dental technician. He eventually was certified and then ran his own full-service laboratory in Manitoba before becoming certified as a Denturist in 2002.
He’s been working in the field ever since, and is one of only a small handful of professionals in B.C. who possess both certificates. Because of this, he is “constantly burning the candle at both ends,” Alex says, laughing.
“A lot of people don’t understand just how complex the work we do is,” he explains. “Everything has to be measured down to the millimetre. The bite position must be perfect. If you don't get that exactly right, your gag reflex can be affected, your digestion, nausea can occur, pain... It's very important to get it right.”
Alex adds that because of how little is understood about his work, he makes sure to spend as much time as needed explaining to the patients exactly what steps are being taken.
“I really like an open line of honest communication with my patients,” he says, “for two reasons. One, because it’s their body and they get to decide what’s being done to it, and two, because they need to know exactly what’s going on with their procedures being completed for them, or it could affect my work.”
Alex explains that a patient who is nervous about an appointment with a denturist should make sure to ask questions. “If someone brushes questions aside, they’re either trying to fake it until they make it, or they don’t have enough respect for the patient to walk them through it. There’s a lot of good practitioners out there, you just have to make sure people are explaining things to you.”
This policy of patient comfort is so important to Alex that he is continually learning new ways of setting patients at ease, including a recent hypnotherapy course. “I now understand just how to help patients with anxiety or a difficult gag reflex,” he says, “and it just feels really rewarding to help.”