Due to the extensive hands-on experience requirements, there are no completely online diploma or certificate programs in dental lab technology. Hybrid programs are rare, but a few schools do offer online classes. Distance learning students must complete the lab portion of the program under supervision at designated dental labs near their homes or at the school. Students must travel to designated testing sites for exams.
In these certificate programs, most of the online lectures run concurrently with laboratory assignments, allowing students to get hands-on experience in what they've studied in class. Some courses may require certain software and plugins. Students learn about the materials used to create dental appliances, study dental anatomy and gain experience in crafting dental appliances, such as dentures and veneers.
Dental Lab Technician Diploma or Certificate
Due to the hands-on nature of a dental lab technician's work, it is rare to find fully online or hybrid diploma or certificate programs. Occasionally, a school may work with distance learning students to find dental laboratories willing to make their facilities and technicians available for the laboratory portion of the student's program. Course credits from dental lab technician diploma and certificate programs can generally transfer into a relevant associate's degree program.
Information and Requirements
The classroom part of the dental lab technician certificate program covers the anatomy of the mouth and teeth, the structure and function of dental prostheses, the composition of dental materials and the construction of appliances. This material makes up the online component of the hybrid program. If a suitable dental laboratory cannot be found for on-site lab work, the student may have to travel to the school for labs. Tests are generally taken at a designated testing center.
The online sections of each course are usually delivered through video conferencing or the Internet. Students need a computer with Internet access, a recent operating system and a current Web browser. Word processing software is required to complete assignments. Certain software programs and plug-ins may be required for some classes.
The didactic classes are typically scheduled to run in concert with laboratory work on the same subject. Sample courses include:
The use of dental materials, including resin, porcelain and metals, is presented in lectures. Students examine these materials in the laboratory.
Students familiarize themselves with structure of the head and neck, as well as the location of the permanent teeth. The laboratory portion of the course involves scale drawings and carvings of permanent teeth.
The construction, fitting and articulation of complete dentures is discussed. Students observe fabrication demonstrations and reproduce those techniques in the laboratory.
This course explains how porcelain is fused to metal to create strong and realistic dental restorations. Students are taught how to fire ceramics, build metal substructures and create ceramic alloy restorations.
Dental lab technicians can find positions in dental clinics, dental labs, dental product manufacturing companies or private dental offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for dental lab technicians were projected to grow 11% from 2014-2024. The median annual salary was $37,190 in 2015.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Dental lab technicians have a few certification options through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. Technicians must take written, practical and comprehensive exams in one or more of five specialty areas. Successful completion of the exam results in a Certified Dental Technician (CDT) certification. In order to renew CDT certification, dental lab technicians must earn 12 hours of continuing education credits every year.
While hybrid programs for dental lab technicians are available, they often require students to go to testing sites for exams and participate in in-person clinical training. Classes however are offered online including those on dental materials and dental anatomy.