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Confident and passionate, Jessica Birrell believes there's no limit to what she can accomplish in the dental technology field. Since starting her laboratory three years ago, she's developed a successful niche for high-end smile design cases and now she's eager to branch out as an educator and share her knowledge.
Her educational philosophy is that it's critical to understand the foundations of a material in order to successfully use that material. She's just started lecturing for Ivoclar Vivadent and, for her presentations, has created an e.max "Playbook" that explains the material makeup, uses and layering techniques for the different e.max ingots.
"I'm teaching my courses like an art class. Technicians learn about the different mediums and build on that foundation by working with them to get a hands-on feel for the different techniques and uses. Once you understand the foundation, then you are free to play," says Birrell, who is publishing her first technical article this month in Dental Dialogue, an international magazine, in which she compares the use of four different e.max materials for creating minimal prep veneers.
While Birrell views education as one way to give back to the community, she also spearheads numerous philanthropic efforts in her laboratory. For example, every October, she gives her packaging a pink makeover in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. For every case the lab receives in November, a Thanksgiving dinner item is donated to the local food bank and by the holiday, the lab will provide several families with a complete Thanksgiving dinner. A thank you note to the patient is then sent with the case explaining the contribution. Next month, the lab will be supporting the Utah Valley Christmas Box Club to fulfill the holiday wish lists—which often include socks, coats and other necessities—of abused and neglected children.
One of her most personally rewarding charitable efforts was her Mother's Day Smile Makeover program. She provided an online form for her clients and their patients to nominate mothers in need of a makeover and then the participating dentists selected the most deserving patient. It was a toss-up between two women so Birrell decided to fabricate restorations for both; one had severe tetracycline staining and the other's husband and daughter have gone through organ transplants. She recently flew to Washington state to meet the women, do their makeup—she's also a licensed makeup artist—and got a local salon to donate haircuts and manicures, then held a photo shoot for both patients.
"It was an incredibly moving experience. Volunteering takes time but it's so rewarding. It's amazing to see how our work can affect patients for the rest of their lives," says Birrell.
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