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Dental lab crossing the bridge to Oldsmar

There's no accounting for taste.

In 26 years of making false teeth for tens of thousands of patients across the country, workers at Knight Dental Studio have seen it all.

There was the man who wanted his front teeth made of shiny gold, with a diamond in each one. Then there were the people who wanted initials or sailboats carved in each tooth.

Then there was the man who mailed in a fishing lure. He wanted the lab to etch a copy of the lure on the side of four teeth he was having made for the back, lower portion of his mouth.

No matter that no one would ever see the design. He wanted it painted to match the same colors on the lure.

He got what he wanted.

"The patient's the boss," said Bob Warner, who is moving the business he owns from a building he owns on Sunnydale Boulevard in Clearwater to a new office on Tampa Road in Oldsmar.

His lab makes crowns and bridges, which are fixed false teeth that cannot be taken out at night. The other two labs in the building make partials and dentures, which can be removed by the patient.

The business has grown from about 20 workers when it moved into its current building in 1979 to more than 80. It needs more space for employees and more modern equipment. In a few years Warner expects to have 140 employees in the new building.

He said he would have liked to have stayed in Clearwater, but vacant land in the city is rare and expensive.

The Clearwater building has about 13,000 square feet, but two other laboratories that do the same sort of work lease space from him. He only uses about 7,000 square feet of it.

Warner will have all the space in the new building, which also will have a total of 13,000 square feet. One of the renters will buy the building on Sunnydale, he said.

He said his work goes in about 30,000 patients each year. The lab services dentists in 18 states.

The new building is nestled in woods on land Warner owns on the north side of busy Tampa Road, just east of Lockheed Martin. He said deer come up to the building and an alligator has taken up residence in a retention pond.

Warner said he will move in as soon as he can get water and sewer hookups finished and permission from the city of Oldsmar.

The lab employees work from impressions that dentists take of patients' mouths. Workers, who Warner says tend to have an artistic bent, go through multiple steps to make the replacement teeth, with much of the work done by hand.

All of that hand-grinding and hand-painting comes at a price. Warner's plant manager, Scott Pincus, said each tooth costs patients an average of $500 to $600.

"The moral of the story," he said, "is to floss and brush daily."