Tucked into a corner of Mountain Green—in the industrial park by the airport—is a family owned and operated dental lab. David and Emily Cox and their three children moved to Mountain Green from Oregon to be closer to family in Utah, and they moved their business with them.
David Cox grew up in Riverton, Utah and after serving a mission in Canada for the LDS church returned and started working for Arrowhead Dental Lab in Sandy. After he trained in that lab and learned all the processes of model and dye work, he trained at another lab to learn gold waxing to make gold crowns. He has worked for a dental lab since he was 20 years old and has been a technician for 21 years. They have lived in Oregon, Virginia and Utah and have owned their own dental lab for nine years.
The dental lab company is named Zahnkunstler, which means tooth artist in German. Dave had been an artist in high school and because he likes to work with his hands, was attracted to working with models. The company name pays homage to his grandfather who was born in Germany. The family moved to Salt Lake when the grandfather was 12, so they could go to the temple in there. During World War II, his grandfather served a mission in Germany, before the U.S. became involved in the war. When the Americans declared war, he finished his mission in Florida. Dave wanted to give recognition to his grandfather and his work ethic. Fritz retired from two jobs: he worked in the coal mines and was also a mason. He did the masonry on several schools in Salt Lake City.
The Coxes have clients all over the United States: New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Utah. They do local work for dentists in Salt Lake, and for Dr. Joe Hopkin in Mountain Green. Emily says she is the delivery driver, the accountant, the model and dye person, and she works on the plaster casts. David is the artist and does the work that requires a steady hand such as the waxing and gold.
Emily says for their out-of-state dentists, they don’t advertise or recruit, but they get referrals from satisfied clients. She has done some recruiting in Utah: telling dentists to try them out free of charge for one unit or crown and if they like their work, they can hire Zahnkunstler for future lab work.
The process of making a crown or an implant is rather involved. Some dentists make their own molds, but the standard procedure is that dental offices take an impression of the patient’s mouth, which is sent to the lab. From that, a mold is made from yellow stone. Then a wax mold is made, the wax is melted in the oven and a hole is left where the wax was. For the gold crowns, the plaster cast is put in the casting machine and the centrifugal force shoots the melted gold into the cavity. This is called the lost wax method. Dave then breaks the investment (the plaster) off the final product.
Two other types of crowns can be made: Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) or all porcelain crowns called pressed porcelain. The crowns are then baked or set in ovens; to avoid contamination, one oven is used for gold and one for porcelain. They do all of this work in Mountain Green.
Emily said that a few years ago, when the recession started, their business was affected. One of their clients, a dentist in New York does a lot of cosmetic work and his business was slow. However, she reports with a smile, “Last year was our busiest year ever.”