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Orthodontic Technician Career Information and Job Duties

Working as an orthodontic technician requires no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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If you have good hand-eye coordination and a steady hand, a career as an orthodontic technician may be for you. Orthodontic technicians create orthodontic appliances based on instructions from orthodontists and dental impressions. They work in dental laboratories, clinics or schools.

Essential Information

An orthodontic technician creates dental appliances that move and align a patient's teeth. Using directions from an orthodontist, the technician works with metals and plastics to create a specialized device. Most technicians work in dental laboratories, either private or within a clinic.

No formal training is required to be employed as a dental laboratory technician, even in orthodontics. On-the-job training is provided with employment, though those who have some experience or training in dental technology might have an advantage in securing a job.

Required Education None mandatory; on-the-job training provided with employment
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% for all dental laboratory technicians*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $37,190 for all dental laboratory technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Orthodontic Technician Career Overview

Orthodontic technicians work with plastics and metals to create orthodontic appliances. Based on instructions and dental impressions from the orthodontist, these appliances are crafted to order and then sent back to the office for a final fitting.

Job Description

An orthodontic technician works with hand tools to create orthodontic appliances that have been specifically prescribed by orthodontists. These appliances are used to align patients' jaws and teeth. Technicians use various specialized materials to create the custom-fitted appliances based on impressions made by the orthodontist.

Job Duties

When the orthodontist sends a detailed prescription to the orthodontic laboratory, a technician uses it along with an impression of the patients' teeth to fashion a model that represents the patient's mouth. This model is used to shape and design a prosthetic device used to move or align the teeth. Using hand tools, a technician forms the metal and bonds any necessary appliances to the prosthetic device. In some orthodontic labs, technicians do all the work needed, while in other facilities, a technician might specialize in certain procedures.

Salary Information and Job Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data specifically for orthodontic technicians, it does for dental laboratory technicians of all kinds, including those who specialize in orthodontics. According to the BLS (www.bls.gov), employment of dental lab technicians in general was expected to grow by 10% between 2014 and 2024. Technicians who have formal training will have better prospects for employment.

The median annual wage for dental laboratory technicians was $37,190 in 2015, based on BLS figures. According to PayScale.com, most orthodontic technicians earned between $26,197 and $47,674 a year as of January 2016, with an hourly median of $16.

Career Options

Orthodontic technicians might work in a private laboratory, a large dental clinic or even at a dental school. Technicians might start their career performing basic duties; as they gain job experience, they might choose to specialize in certain procedures or appliances. Those who have formal training might advance faster and have improved chances of obtaining employment in a large laboratory. Opportunities also exist for technicians to possibly open their own laboratories.

Necessary Skills

Orthodontic technicians must understand a prescription from the orthodontist, which means they need a working knowledge of dental terminology. Those interested in working as orthodontic technicians should begin taking classes in art, computer drafting, metal shop and wood shop in high school. Good hand-eye coordination and a steady hand are necessary for working with hand tools and materials. Those who wish to open their own laboratory need to have training in business.

While no formal education is required, orthodontic technicians must have a working knowledge of dental terminology. Formal training or experience in dental technology are also useful when seeking employment, though many jobs offer on-the-job training.

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