Rebuilding with care

Carolyn Kincade creates oral implants to help restore confidence, function

Carolyn Kincade’s role in helping cancer survivors improve their lives following treatment is both challenging and fulfilling. The 33-year-old osseointegration technologist is sensitive to the fact that those she helps have good days, as well as tough ones.

For five years, she has worked with a team of health professionals to create dental implants and prosthetics, rebuilding faces for people who have undergone major head and neck surgeries. Restoring a person’s confidence is an outcome not lost on Carolyn.

“Essentially we bring back the smile,” says Carolyn (Bachelor of Technology in Technology Management ’17, Dental Laboratory Technology ’07).  “We’re making them something unique and customized to them so they can enjoy dinner with their family, go out in public or just enjoy life.”

Edmonton’s Institute of Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine (iRSM) opened Carolyn’s eyes to what would be possible in her career. She knew the world-leading clinic was where she wanted to be when she first toured the facilities as a NAIT student.

As part of a team of surgeons, prosthodontists, researchers, dental assistants, hygienist and industrial designers, she works with cancer survivors from Alberta and across Canada.

“We’re making them something unique and customized to them so they can enjoy dinner with their family, go out in public or just enjoy life.”

Carolyn says her studies at NAIT provided the hands-on experience and technology-based training she wanted and allowed her to jump into industry.

“The introduction of digital technology into the dental world has been absolutely amazing,” she says. “NAIT has been nothing but useful in my role here at iRSM.”

That experience gave her the skills needed to transform the lives of patients who have seen their facial features severely altered by the life-saving surgeries to remove tumours. A piece of leg bone can be used to replace part of the jaw, but not without changes to physical appearance, hence the need for oral implants.

Carolyn relies on a blend of new technologies such as 3D printers and traditional materials such as wax and artificial teeth to create customized oral prosthesis.

The hands-on work requires precision and a keen eye for details, studying patient photos and reference materials, but also close collaboration with patients and their friends and family.

“If they had a big gap in their front teeth [before surgery], some patients want that reproduced in their final prosthesis,” she says. “Others will be like, ‘No, I always hated that. Let’s get rid of that.’”

Handing over a finished implant to a patient can be one of the final stages of rehabilitation after months or years of treatments and staring down mortality.

“Delivery days are the best days. It’s the happiest thing for a patient so it’s really exciting to be able to see the happy ending.

Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.

Sign up today »