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Dental Lab Technician School and College Program Overviews

Dental lab technicians work in labs to create crowns, dentures, bridges and other orthodontic devices. For aspiring dental lab technicians, certificate programs are offered along with associate's and bachelor's degrees.

Essential Information

Training for dental lab technicians usually comes in a certificate program offered at technical and community colleges, though 2-year associate's programs and 4-year bachelor's programs are also available. Students attending dental lab technician schools learn fundamental and advanced methods for fabricating crowns, dentures, bridges and orthodontic devices. They will develop an understanding of dental materials as well as lab management practices. Hands-on lab training often accompanies traditional classroom instruction in these programs. Graduates may qualify for voluntary certification through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology.

  • Program Levels in Dental Lab Technology: Certificates, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees.
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or equivalent is required. Bachelor's programs may also require standardized test scores or background checks.
  • Program Length: Two to four years.
  • Online Availability: Online programs in dental lab technology are rare.

Dental Lab Technology Certificate

A dental lab technician certificate program educates students in the general areas of dental lab technology and offers specialty training in dental ceramics and denture fabrication. Students are taught to use small hand instruments to duplicate tooth color and form using porcelain and acrylic resins. A certificate can usually be earned in one year.

Those interested in attending accredited dental lab technician schools must have earned high school diplomas or the equivalent. High school students may benefit by focusing on classes involving science, drafting, art and wood shop. Those who want to own their own businesses should take management and mathematics courses as well.

The program coursework provides basic training for dental lab technicians, and students are given an opportunity to develop the artistic and manual dexterity skills necessary in this field. Courses may include the following:

  • Dental materials
  • Occlusion
  • Fixed partial dentures
  • Oral and dental anatomy
  • Removable partial dentures

Associate's Degree in Dental Lab Technology

An associate's degree in dental lab technology teaches students to construct and repair many types of dental prosthetic appliances. Opportunities to work with a variety of materials for producing dental prosthetics, such as plaster, wax, plastic, gold, porcelain, are available. Students learn to make models from dental impressions that mimic the bite and movement of the patient's jaw. The educational prerequisites that apply to the dental lab technician certificate programs also apply to associate's degree programs.

The coursework involved within a dental lab technician school is designed to teach students how to follow dentists' written instructions and create perfectly shaped dental prosthetics. Classes are offered in subjects including the following:

  • Dental history and professional ethics
  • Dental laboratory materials
  • Dental anatomy and physiology
  • Removable partial dentures
  • Orthodontic appliances
  • Fixed prosthodontics

Bachelor's Degree in Dental Lab Technology

Students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs in dental lab technology receive intensive training in removable prosthodontics, orthodontics, fixed prosthodontics and implant restoration. Students work in modern facilities and learn about the latest developments in dental lab technology. A bachelor's degree in this field further prepares students for careers by increasing their knowledge and skills in the specialty areas involving dental lab technology. These specialty areas include crowns and bridges, dentures and ceramics. A high school diploma is required to enter a bachelor's degree program, and additional requirements, such as ACT/SAT scores and background checks, may also be enforced depending on the school.

While a dental lab technology program begins by teaching students simple tasks, such as pouring plaster to make impressions, it quickly advances to complex procedures. Courses within a bachelor's degree program are taught by certified professionals with years of teaching experience in dental lab technology. Courses are offered in subjects such as:

  • Advanced fixed prosthodontics
  • Complete dentures
  • Applied laboratory management
  • Dental materials science
  • Ceramics
  • Orthodontic laboratory

Popular Career Options

Students who graduate from dental lab technician certificate programs are able to construct and assemble false teeth and other prosthetic devices for dental patients. Dental lab technicians may specialize in a number of areas, including the following:

  • Ceramics
  • Partial dentures
  • Complete dentures
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Orthodontic appliances

Dental lab technicians are skilled artisans who create the appliances that restore oral structures and tissues. While some technicians choose to start their own businesses, others find employment opportunities in the following work environments:

  • Private dental offices
  • Commercial dental laboratories
  • Hospital dental clinics
  • Dental product manufactures
  • Military base dental laboratories

Salary Info and Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment opportunities for dental lab technicians are expected to rise 7% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). In 2014, the BLS listed the average annual salary for dental lab technicians as $40,140.

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