Featuring introductory courses, certificate programs focus on prosthetic construction and proper equipment use. The associate program gives students a deeper understanding and an advantage when they are looking for employment. In addition to taking general education subjects, students at the associate level might learn business management skills. Program specialization options often include studies on crowns and bridges, ceramics, partial and complete dentures. Common prerequisites can include a high school diploma or GED. Some programs may require students to provide their own dental tools.
Certificate of Achievement in Dental Laboratory Technology
In this program, students learn the fundamental skills required to become a dental laboratory technician. Students learn how to construct pieces for prosthetic teeth, including crowns, bridges, inlays, and other essential prosthetic pieces. They also learn how to use and take care of the equipment required to build these parts. In addition to the dental side of the program, students learn business skills needed to manage a small dental technology laboratory.
The basic introduction courses in the certificate program familiarize students with the procedures, anatomy and material they will work with on the job. These courses give students a basic understanding of a typical day as a dental technician. These are some of the common courses include:
- Introduction to dental anatomy and morphology
- Ceramics used in dentistry
- History and ethics of dentistry
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Associate in Science Degree in Dental Laboratory Technology
The associate program is typically similar to the certificate program, but it builds on the basics and teaches more in-depth procedures and techniques. These degree programs may also include additional general education coursework.
The courses in this program are designed to introduce students to the materials, equipment, and procedures used in this industry. Along the way, students will pick up techniques for managing a small business as well. Some of the later courses in this program teach students more in-depth procedures and techniques than the certificate program. These are some of the common courses offered:
- Introduction to dental materials and anatomy
- Dental reconstruction techniques
- Designing and constructing dental ceramics
- History and ethics of dentistry
The above programs set students up for entry- to mid-level positions as dental technicians. The general procedure for a dental technician to fill a prescription starts with the technician receiving a mold from the dentist. Through a series of molding techniques, the technician creates a replica of the patient's mouth. The technician then creates the required prosthetic to conform to the mold. Some potential employers for dental technicians include:
- Dentist's office
- Established dental technology laboratory
- Personally owned dental technology lab
From 2014-2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects 10% growth in employment growth in the dental laboratory technician field (www.bls.gov). In 2014, there were 37,520 dental lab technician jobs, and these technicians earned a median annual wage of $37,190 in 2014, according to the BLS.
The certificate prepares students to become certified dental technicians (CDT), a designation awarded by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. In order to become a CDT, the Board requires students to graduate from a dental laboratory technology program and pass several tests (www.nbccert.org). There are five specializations students can take to become CDTs, including crowns and bridges, partial and complete dentures, ceramics, and orthodontics. CDTs can work in all five areas if they prefer. Once a student becomes a CDT, they must complete 12 hours of continuing education yearly to keep this designation.
Dental technology degree programs are available at both certificate and associate's levels. Courses in dental anatomy and morphology and dental reconstruction techniques prepare graduates for a career within the field.