My way:
“Follow your inner voice!”

My name is Alvin Chai and I was born and raised in Malaysia. The profession of a dental technician was not my first choice. Only after successfully completing a bachelor’s degree in building surveying at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, I changed industries. After graduating in 2008 I realized that this would not be my career path. So, I decided to learn the profession of a dental technician in my uncle’s dental laboratory. After almost two years of training, I wanted to deepen my knowledge and skills. I applied for a study place at the TAFE in Sydney, Australia, and graduated in 2012 with the International Student Certificate of Excellence.

Returning to Singapore in 2012 as a trained Dental Technician, I continued my passion in a few mass production dental laboratories focusing on CAD/CAM & all ceramics restoration. Here I saw the importance of technology tools/aid that can bring benefits & opportunities in a business setting. In the following years I also studied part-time at the Kaplan Higher Education Academy Singapore and graduated with the “Advanced Diploma in Business and Management” (2016) and the “Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration” (2018). Since then, my drive-in dental technology is about mastery of skills/technique (analogue) and correlation with technology (digital) to make the work processes more predictable, cost-effective and efficient. I believe the transferable skills between analogue & digital is the key to improve overall work performance between clinician & technician.

I am currently a co-partner at Digital Dental Lab Pte Ltd Singapore and responsible for all topics concerning clinical prosthetics and laboratory operations. The main focus of my work as a dental technician is on ceramics, crown and bridge works. Further responsibilities are:

  • Dental implant works: customised abutments cementable and screw-retained
  • CAD/CAM applications: designing abutments, zirconium crowns and frameworks
  • Veneering with layering ceramic on zirconium and lithium disilicate, aesthetic veneers
  • Transforming STL files to print 3D models and the framework manufacturing
  • Application of different CAD software programs (e.g. 3Shape, Exocad, Amann Girrbach, Formlabs, Asiga, RapidShape and many more) and the subsequent CAM processing
  • Providing in-house training for dentists, dental staff and dental technicians on intraoral scanning and chairside shade taking
  • Making sure dentists follow the preparation protocol prior to the digital process and the manufacturing of the restoration
  • Providing in-house support for technical queries, software and hardware
  • Maintenance of software and units to minimize down times
  • Collaboration, knowledge sharing and support of dentists and dental technicians in problem solving during manufacturing process
  • Supporting transformation processes with the aim of efficiently using the resources to achieve the result desired by dentist and patient.

As you can see, digital manufacturing processes are very important to me. They increase efficiency and ensure a consistent quality standard in the manufacture of restorations. However, digital processes require not only technical know-how but also a general knowledge about the shape and function of teeth as well as the entire masticatory system. For me, the biggest advantage of digital production is the gain of time, and I can then invest that time in the veneering and thus aesthetics of the restoration.

“Creation ZI-CT –
das war Liebe auf den ‘ersten’ Brand.”

What is your personal vision for your dental business? What do you wish to achieve once?

My vision is to become an acknowledged high-end aesthetic technician in Southeast Asia. Therefore, everything that I do on a daily basis is about delivering high quality restorations to my customers and patients and providing the maximum possible for every case. Aesthetics in dental industry is a niche opportunity in my region. Very few laboratories are interested in creating a high work standard environment due to the market driven competition – low cost with generic service and the demand for uniform and cheap dentures. In my opinion, being generic is not why I ventured into this job. I landed into this profession hoping to stand out and being different. Besides patients who can afford only standard care, statistics data of patients looking for high quality and aesthetic work is actually showing favourable demand; there is still a lot of untapped market potential.

Focused on aesthetics, I am perceived as a laboratory for high demands and I created a company brand image. In the near future I really would like to become part of Sascha Hein’s eLAB instructor team, share my knowledge and be an ambassador for high aesthetics in Southeast Asia.

What is your way to success – how you define it for yourself?

According to my opinion, success is a very general topic which covers a vast interest depending on who you talk to. There are many ways to measure success, may it be family, health, wealth, influence, etc. It really comes down to the individual what success means. For me, success is something unattainable, rather a direction in life that shifts phases all the time. Yet it is something that aligns with the things we value in life. At this particular time success to me is to enjoy life to the fullest, having a good health, a happy family and doing the things that make me happy – namely working with ceramics as a dental technician.

What is your inspiration and motivation? What drives you forward?

My motivation is to create life-like crowns and veneers looking natural and stunning in the patient’s mouth. In order to do that it requires a lot of training and practice. Achieving this goal is my drive and my motivation. I want to keep learning from great masters around the world and implement the knowledge into my work and create magic.

What is your way that made you to the professional person you are today?

Dental technician was not my first go-to job. I ventured into this industry in my late 20s after going through my 1st degree which I did not find huge interest in. Thanks to my uncle I learned the profession of a dental technician. He ran a laboratory, introduced me to the profession, recognized my talent, purpose and potential and encouraged me. Ever since I stepped in, I have submitted myself to learning, hard work and practice because I know that I am already late in carrier building and I don’t want to squander for all the lost time. And I pursue my profession with joy and passion.

Who “formed” you?

Sascha Hein is the person who encouraged me a lot and gave me a lift in my career. When I started with the eLAB protocol back in 2018, I gained great and new insights on how light influences the colour of natural teeth. With the support of shade measuring and analysing tools, I am now very well able to reproduce natural teeth.

What is your best case you are still proud of? What was the special challenge?

I had some tricky ones, but I do not see myself having any best case yet so far. There are always some flaws and you must keep trying to improve. The following case is a single screw retained implant crown.

The case was especially challenging because the patient had already had a bad experience with the restoration and shade matching in another clinic. Therefore, stakes were very high for this case. We had to consider three things:

  1. Shaping a perfect emergence profile for the implant crown
  2. Almost perfect colour matching to the residual dentition
  3. The requirement to create the crown after a single visit in the dentist’s surgery with no remakes, also to uphold the reputation and service image of the surgery.

In the end we managed as a team to satisfy the patient and the case was delivered on a single visit with no remakes. However, I was very conservative on yellow stains towards the cervical region as the patient wanted to go for whitening in the near future. The crown was slightly too bright on the neck, but luckily that was not visible when the patient smiled as she has a low lip line.

Actual try-in with Polar_eyes

Actual try-in with Reflected image

Which recommendation you would like to give young dental technicians on their way?

First of all, you need to know what you want to achieve in your life or in your profession. You should listen to your inner voice and follow your feelings.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you love to do? Why am I here?

Once you know the “why”, then “how” is easy. You just need to put in the work and grind it.

If the “why” is still unclear, don’t settle. Keep searching for the answer until you find it. Sometimes the answer may not be necessarily found in dentistry or dental technology, it can also be elsewhere.

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More success stories of dental technicians …

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