Clinical Dental Technician and artist, Richard Greenlees of Lovebite, has returned from a tour of Switzerland, Germany and the UK where he contributed to symposia on the latest technology used in denture creation.
“It has been fascinating,” Richard says, “My main conclusion being that you just can’t surpass a set of dentures completely hand-made and bespoke to their owner”. The drive to computer-generated dentures simply doesn’t replicate Richard’s ability to create a set of dentures indistinguishable from a person’s own teeth. Key to Richard’s stunning results is his passion for studying faces and features. Regarded as gifted by colleagues, Richard has an innate ability to recreate a face as it would be if structured by its natural teeth.
“It is common to be left with a ‘denture face’ after a number of years,” Richard says. “Cheeks collapse and lips thin, distorting the integrity of facial structure.” He finds women often bring their husbands in to get a denture face restored to its original more masculine appearance. Experience plus possessing the eye of a practicing artist enables Richard to visualise how the patient’s face would look at its best authentic self, at its current age.
“The face fascinates me. It shows its owner’s history, illustrates the character and sustains life through its role in eating. Once it is restored there can be quite a dramatic change – patients can look in the mirror and see a younger self looking back. It always moves them and it can take a little time to adjust to this different yet completely authentic self.” Richard’s ‘after shots’ of patients are authentic too, he is strict on no use of stock photos to misrepresent his skill.
The process begins with Richard observing the face, plus getting to know the personality behind it. A technical phase utilises moulds in different ways. Richard’s own-recipe wax is used to create lip stents as tools to reshape the face, helping decide where the teeth will sit, and where to place the teeth in the skull shape. This skilled and thoughtful analysis sets Richard’s work apart.
Fittings occur to ensure the patient and Richard are happy and then the finishing stage can begin. This is a critical element, where Richard’s artistic side comes to the fore. The denture is handmade, incorporating the shape of teeth and gums, tinting and colouring and the character features that make the denture indistinguishable from real teeth are added.
Creation of the dentures occurs in both the clinic and the art studio space at Lovebite, with the whole process in Richard’s hands only. Far from a 9–5’er, Richard sometimes works on a denture in the small hours, unable to put it down. He puts in long hours, but like any creative enterprise, it is not work, “it’s an expression for me, I love it”.