In May we’re delighted to be celebrating 30 years of membership with the Dental Laboratories Association, some good news following a recent burglary that left us unable to operate for 24 hours.
Sadly in February our laboratory was broken into, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and the loss of crucial manufacturing equipment. Not to be deterred, or for our customers to be affected the team worked hard getting the lab back up and running quickly.
During the clean-up we discovered a certificate from The Dental Laboratories Association dated May 1989. Hannah Abbott, Laboratory Manager says “It seemed fitting that we should have something to celebrate following the trauma of the break in. I started thinking about documenting the history of the lab as there are many people still working here who were part of the team back in 1989 and even longer”
Hannah set about her research and discovered that the business was originally founded by a young man named Sam Riley. Sam left school aged just 14 and became an apprentice to a Dentist in Ilkeston. In those days you weren’t paid a wage, you were expected to pay them for your training! Taking pity on him because his Mother was a widow they gave him 2/6 shillings a week which just about paid his bus fare.
Following his training in 1937 Sam started work for another dentist, Mr. Statham in Ripley. Sam set up and managed a small laboratory employing a few technicians at the side of the surgery, making dentures and carrying our repairs. Sam, ever the innovator was one of the first technicians in the UK to go to Switzerland in the late 1960’s to learn how to make porcelain crowns.
Sel Baxter, Sam’s son in law remembers ‘’I remember seeing Sam casting a gold crown by heating the crucible in a metal bucket on chains and then spinning it round his head to cast it by centrifugal force. No posh casting machines in those days’’
Sam’s passion and dedication to dentistry grew and he set up his own Dental Laboratory, along with his wife Doreen in 1972 in an old co-op shop in Pye Bridge. Their son in law Sel joined the family business in 1977 as a lab technician and the business went from strength to strength. In 1982 Sel and Sam formed a partnership and built a new lab, where we still operate from today.
Together Sam and Sel worked tirelessly to give the Lab the fantastic reputation that we are currently still hold. Five members of the team that Sam and Sel built still work here today, fondly referred to as ‘The Originals.’ The wealth of knowledge and the many changes in dentistry that these team members have seen is truly remarkable – together they have 166 years of combined service.
Sam retired in 1998, leaving Sel to run the business to further success. Sel employed Hannah, our Laboratory Manager as an apprentice in 2006. Hannah immediately fell in love with the industry and is still here 14 years later; “The passion and love I have for the business was learnt through them, and the values that were formed right at the beginning are what I strive to achieve today in this ever changing industry”
In 2012 the lab was rebranded and Optimum Dental was born. We’re now one of the leading providers of manufactured dental appliances within the UK.
Kevin Mosley, an ‘Original’ team member of 47 years states “We are very lucky to still be working with practicing clinicians who have been with us since the lab’s original inception, proving that loyalty is key.” To support this we launched our loyalty programme ‘Optipoints’ in January this year.
In honour of Sam, every year a team member is awarded ‘The Riley Award’. Presented for demonstrating outstanding service, workmanship and loyalty to the business.
Sadly our founder Sam Riley passed away in 2003 but his legacy still lives on – in the heart of our business, in the team members who worked alongside him, and in the lab, where a photograph of Sam and his wife Doreen takes pride of place.
To all our customers and staff, old and new, you help make Optimum Dental the wonderful business it is today.