"Most of the other students were taken by the 'glamour' of ceramics, but I was drawn to dentures," says Krista Hartley, CDT, referring to her experience at Indian River State College's dental technology program. "I love the challenges of the denture specialty, setting the teeth and establishing the vertical so the patient can enjoy the things that most of us take for granted, like chewing and smiling. Doing everything just right restores the patient's confidence and self-esteem."
After graduation in 2006, Hartley's first boss took her under his wing and allowed her to immerse herself in denture fabrication; five years later, she was chomping at the bit to do even more. "I really wanted to work closely with dentists and get involved with treatment planning," says Hartley, who joined DDS last January precisely for that reason.
As Head of Incoming Quality Control, she spends the majority of her day on the telephone with clients, emailing photos back and forth, and sometimes sitting at the bench to work on the more difficult cases. "I love the relationships I've developed with our clients, knowing they feel comfortable calling for my opinion or putting my name on the case so I'm the first to look at it when it comes in," says Hartley, who's known as the lab's "go-to" removable prosthetics technician, according to HR Manager Christy Foster.
There's no doubt Hartley is quickly on her way to becoming a standout in a specialty that's somewhat dominated by older, male technicians. But rather than being made to feel she's trying to get into an "old boys' club," it's those veteran technicians who've helped her the most. "Maybe some of them were skeptical at first, but once they saw my passion, they made me part of the family," she says. "They've been like my adopted parents: teaching, guiding and advising me."