Interview: Building rapport between dental technicians and dentists
Romeo Giuseppe is a dental technician and owner of a prosthetic dentistry laboratory in Turin in Italy. In this interview, he speaks to Dental Tribune International about how COVID-19 has affected his work in the laboratory and about the impact that the pandemic has had on his personal and professional life.
Romeo, could you tell us a bit about your work in general and what prompted you to become a dental technician?
My situation is unusual because I’m based in Turin, but I was born in New York and I’m an American citizen. I lived in the US for the first five years of my life. Then we moved to Italy because my parents decided to come back here. I received my education as a technician in Italy, and after I finished my five years of school, I moved to Switzerland and did a two-year master’s degree at the University of Geneva. During that time, I had the possibility of working with Dr Pascal Magne, Prof. Dr Uls Belser and Didier Dietschi, and had the chance to work in Michel Magne’s laboratory. Michel was not only my professor but also my mentor, my teacher. I worked with him for ten years. After that, I moved back to the US and stayed in Los Angeles for five years, working at the University of Southern California for three of those years.
During my time in the US, I had the opportunity to become an assistant clinical professor in restorative science. And then, at the beginning of 2015, I came back to Italy. I had to reopen my laboratory and I’m now working with high-level dentists all around the world.
I became a dental technician because I wasn’t able to become a dentist. My dream was to become a dentist, but because during your life things happen and you have to change your plans, I started working as a dental technician and I became a dental technician. But because of my passion for this field in dentistry, I focused everything on the aesthetic area and how to increase quality in the aesthetic area. I also grew up with dentists and they trained me extensively in all the clinical procedures and taught me how to work together to achieve the final aesthetic result. This is very important. I saw that dental technicians usually only have two or three years of school. Then they start to layer ceramic, thinking that layering ceramic defines a dental technician’s work, but it doesn’t.
You have to familiarise yourself with the science of the material, the occlusion, the clinical side of the work. You have to know what the next step in the clinic is to avoid mistakes and biological damage. And this is one of the things that I always focus my attention on. I was trained to be unique in the way that I work in the laboratory, working with a microscope to obtain precision for the duration of the treatment.
“Dental technicians have stopped investing in technology such as milling machines and scanners”
It is safe to say that COVID-19 took everyone by surprise and that its suddenness left no time for preparation. What was your initial response to the pandemic and the confinement measures ordered by the authorities?
Yes, it was a strange time for me as well. I was completely astonished at the pandemic taking place all around the world. I stopped travelling immediately, and this was a big change for me. I love travelling, and I go see patients and dentists in different countries. Here in the laboratory, we had to pay close attention to proper disinfection procedures and to learn how to best deliver the cases. Fortunately, not all the dentists that I work with had to close their offices. I continued to work in the laboratory during the lockdown in Italy. Everything had to be customised, very well disinfected and boxed differently than before.
Do you think that you have received sufficient support from the government and the dental profession during the crisis?
No, not in Italy. We haven’t had sufficient support. I’m glad that economic support was granted to those people with very humble jobs, but this was not true for my laboratory. We had to take money from the bank, some money that I had saved, to pay some expenses and to deal with reality—but it was an emergency. The situation will change eventually.
The pandemic is slowly reshaping dental practices around the world. Have you recently noticed any emerging trends in dental technology?
No, so far I haven’t. I saw that the industry was very knocked-down because of the pandemic, especially in the dental technology field. Dental technicians have stopped investing in technology such as milling machines and scanners because of the devastating economic situation all around the world.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about the post-COVID-19 era in dentistry. As a dental technician, do you feel optimistic about the long-term changes the pandemic may produce in dental laboratories and the dental field in general?
I know that most of the clinical offices still don’t have the same volume of work, since they can’t see the same number of patients a day. This reduced number of patients has subsequently reduced the quantity of work, and this has been reflected in the dental laboratory. Dental laboratories have the same problem because they are the mirrors of the clinical office, of the current state of affairs. In my case, because I specialise in veneers and the aesthetic zone, employing the precision of the microscope, I still had some requests coming in because some patients and dentists still appreciate the quality of my work.
Compared with the big laboratories, COVID-19 hasn’t affected work in my laboratory much. Big laboratories focus on production volumes. Mine is a small laboratory—there are three of us, sometimes four—and so the quantity of the work and the quality of the work are completely different from that of big laboratories.
“When dentists and patients realise that a dental technician is open to creating something for the future, I think that there is a good possibility for better future cooperation”
Lastly, there’s a lot of discussion around the mental health of dentists and dental technicians at the moment. Has the pandemic affected you personally?
I can tell you that I have a lot of defects as a person, but one of my strengths is that I always seek to rise to the challenges of life and that I’m always thinking positively. I try to talk with dentists and other people and to stay active in my job and my relationship with dentists and their patients. That is why I don’t think that COVID-19 will affect me in the future because I’m still working every day and I can see the result.
This is what we have to go through right now, and we have to stay humble. We have to fight every day and we can’t surrender. I think that we can find a solution because dentists want to have a conversation with dental technicians in order to understand and address the situation. I have to admit that I had to lower the price for some cases, but it was not damaging for me. It helped me to have a better relationship with the dentist and the patient. So when dentists and patients realise that a dental technician is open to creating something for the future, I think that there is a good possibility for better future cooperation.