Dental Laboratory Technician: Job Information and Requirements

A dental laboratory technician is both an artist and scientist, because of the technological and aesthetic approach that is part of this job. These technicians work directly with dentists, and follow written instructions to create impressions, models and replicas of patients' teeth. Read on to learn more about this profession.

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Career Definition for a Dental Laboratory Technician

Dental laboratory technicians are responsible for creating full and partial dentures for individuals who are missing their teeth. Technicians also design bridges, crowns, caps, veneers, and other orthodontic splints and appliances to protect and straighten teeth.

Education Associate's degree or certificate in dental laboratory technology
Job Skills Correctly work with dental instruments and materials, attention to detail, ability to follow precise directions
Median Salary (2015)* $37,190 (all dental laboratory technicians)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% (all dental laboratory technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Dental laboratory technicians can receive their education through a 2-year program at a technical college, vocational school or community college. These programs will confer either a certificate or an associate's degree in dental laboratory technology. The Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association is responsible for accrediting dental laboratory technology training programs. Some states require additional licensure or other credentialing.

However, a formal education isn't required in all states. In some, prospective dental laboratory technologists can get practical on-the-job training and learn new procedures as they advance through training.

Skills Required

Dental laboratory technicians work with a number of different materials, including plastics, waxes, stainless steel, porcelain, polymer glass and precious and non-precious alloys. Technicians are required to know how to use dental instruments and equipment before performing any procedures. They must be able to follow precise instructions and blueprints provided by a dentist.

Career and Economic Outlook

Many dental laboratory technicians are employed in dental laboratories, while other opportunities are available in private dental offices, hospitals, dental schools and manufacturers. Laboratories may employ just a handful of technicians responsible for all areas of work, while others may have hundreds of technicians performing different procedures, some even with distinct job titles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the median annual salary for a dental laboratory technician was $37,190 in May 2015, and faster than average job growth of 11% was expected from 2014-2024.

Alternate Career Options

If you are interested in a career as a dental laboratory technician, check out related occupations, including medical equipment repairer and optician.

Medical Equipment Repairer

By earning an associate's degree in engineering or biomedical technology, these repairers seek employment maintaining, installing and repairing various types of patient care equipment. An average employment growth of 6% was projected for medical equipment repairers by the BLS, for the 2014-2024 decade. A median annual wage of $46,340 was reported by the BLS for medical equipment repairers in 2015.

Dispensing Opticians

Normally learning their skills on the job after earning a high school diploma, dispensing opticians follow prescriptions from eye doctors to fit contact lenses and eyeglasses. The BLS reported a much faster than average employment growth of 24% was predicted for dispensing opticians from 2014-2024. This job offered a median salary of $34,840 in 2015.

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