By Susan Poizner
Special to The Toronto Sun
There is nothing false about the smiles on denturists' faces these days. A survey conducted in 2000 found that half of them in Ontario had revenues between $50,000 and $150,000 and the top 25% made $150,000 plus.
Until 2016 -- when the oldest of the baby boomers turn 70 -- Statistics Canada says the cost of dentures will be the country's fastest growing household expense apart from shelter and taxes.
There's more good news. Until 2016 -- when the oldest of the baby boomers turns 70 -- Statistics Canada says the cost of dentures will be the country's fastest growing household expense apart from shelter and taxes.
"The prospects for denturists in Ontario and nationally are so good," says Michelle Kennedy, registrar of the College of Denturists of Ontario in Toronto. "Most definitely, it is a lucrative profession."
And just what do denturists do? They fit, make and repair dentures -- by far the largest part of their profession -- as well as make mouth guards for sports, supply anti-snoring devices and sometimes provide cosmetic dental bleaching.
"Denturists are front line health professionals and deal directly with patients," says Robert Gaspar, co-ordinator of the program at George Brown College in Toronto, the only one of its kind in Ontario.
Because the three-year, full-time course at George Brown is unique, Gaspar says it is always oversubscribed with more than 300 students a year applying for 35 places. Applicants need at least a high school diploma with a credit in human biology. Tuition fees were $8,300 last year and are expected rise considerably for 2004-2005.
Robert Gaspar is co-ordinator of the denturists program at Toronto's George Brown College.
Gaspar estimates 40% to 50% of his students enter the denturist program directly from high school, 30% have a university degree or background and the rest are mature students or career changers. Foreign-trained dentists apply in significant numbers, Gaspar continues, and there are even foreign-trained doctors who enroll, as do students from other provinces and the U.S.
The denturist program at George Brown is tough, academically and practically. In the first year, successful applicants study such subjects as human biology and dental anatomy, and by their second year they have added extensive labs, where they practise making false teeth, to their to their academic workload.
Like other medical professions that fit or make devices to replace Mother Nature's original issue, denturism is both art and science, says Kennedy, and tends to attract people who enjoy working with their hands and interacting with others. "It can be a very rewarding profession," she says. "Your smile, your face, is how you present yourself to the world."
It's the personal contact that Serena Dilegge cites as one of denturism's attractions. In high school, Dilegge thought she wanted to be a dental hygienist, "but when I started to think about it I wasn't sure that I could pick stuff out of people's teeth for a living." Her guidance counsellor suggested she try dental technology instead, so from 1998 to 2001 Dilegge studied at George Brown, graduated, then enrolled in the denturist program that year.
A denturist fits, makes and repairs dentures.
Ontario's only denturist program is at George Brown College.
There are 460 practicing denturists in Ontario.
Licensing for denturists in Ontario began in 1974.
35% of the members of the College of Denturists of Ontario are aged 55 or over.
"I love the lab work, but I just couldn't see myself (as a dental technician) sitting there at a bench for the rest of my life with the strained neck and the hunched back. I needed to interact with others. I'm a people person."
Dilegge lives in Woodbridge, Ont., while she attends George Brown, but once she finishes her final exams this summer she will work in London, Ont., in association with an established denturist.
Working with someone else or for a dentist isn't uncommon for newly licensed practitioners, but Gaspar says 90% of denturists work for themselves.
And setting up shop is expensive. Even though denturists' earnings look great on paper, in their first few years of practice they can expect to take a hit. Remember, says Dilegge, it costs $50,000 to $60,000 just to open for business.
(Reach freelancer Susan Poizner at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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