Dental health has improved dramatically with falling rates of tooth decay and attention has now shifted to the needs of an ageing population, with an increased emphasis upon aesthetics – that is, having a full set of sparkling white teeth. Without proper protection, exposure to these may risk the health of the dental technologist.

Dental lab sandblasters are used to increase bond strength by divesting the casting investment and increasing effective surface area as well as polishing the surface of castings. Sandblasters that are used in dental laboratories are enclosed and often operate through a vacuum or via dental compressor. Dental laboratory sandblasters are operated via foot pedal and often feature gloves to work through, this keeps everything contained. Sandblasting media can be Aluminum Oxide, glass beads or Silicone Carbide grit. Be sure to choose a dental laboratory sandblaster that employs proper dust retraction.

The processes involved in building any kind of dental prosthesis have a number of stages where there is a potential health hazard to the dental technologist. First, the dentist makes a mould of the patient’s mouth or teeth which the dental technologist uses to make a plaster model. This is used to make up a metal framework for the prosthesis onto which porcelain is overlaid, using a sandblasting technique. After baking the metal-porcelain layers, there is grinding to achieve the required shape.

This series of operations encompasses not just exposure to chemical hazards, which will be discussed elsewhere, but also the generation of dust particles of various compositions and sizes. Research has shown us that the dust from the types of materials that are used in dental technology contain between 54-70 per cent of respirable particles (that is, particles of less than 5 microns in size that enter the lungs). A particular concern is the silica content of this dust, which can reach 30 per cent and may exceed maximum recommended levels during the sandblasting and grinding processes.

Another is exposure to dusts from heavy metals like the cobalt-chromium-molybdenum alloys. Both exposures may lead to a lung condition known as pneumoconiosis, of which several cases have been reported as being linked to dental technology.


There have also been a number of cases of silicosis, a well-known and very serious occupational lung disease that is cause by inhaling respirable crystalline silica dust. These have been highlighted in the United States Center for Disease Control’s publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR). Traditionally, silicosis is associated with the mining, quarrying and ceramics industries.