Eric Hansen’s history and involvement in the denturist profession must begin with his father, Ron Hansen. The family joke was that Ron Hansen’s dental laboratory was his “other wife” because he lived there more than he lived at home. Eric recalls the many evenings his mom would bring his father’s dinner to the laboratory where he would continue to work well into the night. Eric was not left out; he worked in the laboratory after school and summers being responsible for cleaning the laboratory, maintaining and cleaning the equipment and other never-ending tasks. Eric did not like the hard work, so when he graduated high school and needed to get serious about his future, he didn’t want to consider his dad’s career. However, after attempts at a few jobs he realized perhaps the dental laboratory work was not too bad so when his father mentioned there was a position opened he asked for the job and his father said yes. Eric then realized that while he was working most of his life helping his father he was also learning a skill. Also, he realized that he actually loved the work.
They generated a good business and had several accounts fabricating appliances for local dentists. Ron was acquainted with several denturists in Canada, and dreamed of the profession but with the strong dental lobby in Washington considered that a dream for another day. However, one of their dentist clients and personal friend enjoyed working with them and was impressed with their talent and asked them to join him and open a denture clinic. This bit of independence was great and they were disappointed when circumstances required their friend leave Washington. They tried to continue their work but were harassed repeatedly by the dental board with cease and desist orders and threats of prosecution.
Ron had been working with the National Denturist Association, USA and it was at one of the national meetings they learned about the Indian Tribal Denturist Association and that some people were working independently on Native American Sovereign lands in Oklahoma. This was appealing to them and with acceptance from the Nooksack tribe in Washington opened a clinic. They enjoyed their clinic but the dental board continued their harassment.
Even though the dental board had no authority on the sovereign lands this harassment only spurred their interest in becoming totally independent. By this time all the talk was “total independence.” Following the lead of Oregon they attended Oregon Denturist College, were graduated, challenged the Oregon State Board Examination and received a license in Oregon.
After approaching the state legislature with these credentials, using as part of their argument that Washington State’s own Health Department’s study recommended recognizing denturists and still being denied, the group of about 12 decided to have a state initiative. This was an enormous challenge and required hours and hours of work and a major financial commitment. They worked tirelessly, gathered more signatures than required, bought newspaper, radio and television ads. They challenged the dentists to public debates and were interviewed on local television stations. Eric said they were “down to the wire” and out of money even after this dedicated group had mortgaged their homes, sold automobiles and boats. They needed $3000 more; everyone had reached as far as they could, but not to give up Eric secured a loan on his truck. Then there was the waiting. They all gathered at a local restaurant to watch the returns; Eric said, “This was the most exciting time of my life.” Bill #607 passed with almost 58% citizen approval; one of the highest initiative wins ever in Washington.
Eric’s work did not stop there; quite the contrary. Appointed by the governor he has been a member of the Washington State Health Department Denturist Board since the beginning serving as chair much of the time. He holds denturist license number two. He is an active member of the Washington Denturist Association and is a board member of the National Denturist Association, USA and member of the International Federation of Denturists.
Eric’s respect was noticeably heart-felt while saying, “We have to give a lot of respect to our denturist founding fathers. These men and women in their 60’s, started college and changed careers putting their fortunes on the line for the profession. They are due our admiration and respect.”
We were saddened with the passing of Eric’s father, but his legacy lives on; Eric’s daughter, Melissa and son Cody are denturists and work with him at his clinics giving him more time to pursue his hobbies fishing and hunting. Eric’s advice to anyone interested in this profession is to not be intimidated, get educated and be proud of your profession; be strong and stand up and take your rightful position as a denture specialist healthcare provider.