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The New Zealand Dental Services

The Mechanical Laboratory or Workroom

The Mechanical Laboratory or Workroom

This was where the mechanical construction of artificial dentures was carried out. All work for the patient was carried out in the surgery by the dental officer but the actual construction was done in the workroom by the mechanic to his instructions.

Benches were built round the walls for plaster work, vulcanisation, boiling out wax, packing rubber, setting up teeth and the hundred and one procedures connected with the work. Water, light and electricity were needed and gas for Bunsen burners, vulcanisers and gas rings. It was not possible to rely on a supply of coal gas for every dental hospital and, as it was the policy of the Corps to standardise all equipment, bottled gas was used. This was a rock gas mined in California and stored in cylinders of 20 lb and 210 lb. A smaller jet was required than that used for coal gas so special burners and connections were necessary. It was very satisfactory and had the advantage over coal gas of being portable. Although classed as ‘Dangerous’, with a recommendation that it be stored in a magazine, no fires, with the exception of one due to carelessness in leaving a vulcaniser unattended, occurred during the whole war, and it was used in mobile laboratories as well as hospitals. There were some anxious moments about supplies at the time of Japan's entry into the war, when America placed an embargo on the export of steel cylinders, but these difficulties were overcome and no shortages were experienced.

The bench accommodation, including space for plaster work, polishing, packing, vulcanising, soldering, inlay casting and general work, together with the cupboards and drawers, was well designed on conventional lines and need not be described in detail.

In a small hospital the room was about 12 ft by 8 ft and in the big mobilisation camps was 40 ft by 13 ft 6 in., which was none too large for the volume of work that passed through it.