All programs in orthodontic laboratory technology include studies in dental science and anatomy, orthodontics appliances, and dental molding. Certificate and associate's degree programs in dental laboratory technology are similar, with the latter including general education coursework. Bachelor's-level students learn about the most recent dental technologies and might attend seminars and complete internships. Some courses can be found online for any of these programs.
These programs has specific admissions requirements. For the certificate and associate's programs, students will need a high school education, proof of a recent physical, and must successfully pass a hand-eye coordination test. The bachelor's degree will specify the addition of prerequisite dental lab courses or professional experience.
Certificate of Completion in Dental Laboratory Technology
Dental and orthodontic laboratory technicians work with dentists and orthodontists to improve the oral health and cosmetic appearance of dental and orthodontic patients. Students complete coursework both in the classroom and in labs where they learn to use dental tools, equipment, and technology. Coursework teaches the fundamentals of mouth and tooth structures, while lab experiences introduce students to wax, acrylic, gypsum, and metals. Students learn to create dentures, crowns, bridges, and orthodontic appliances to correct abnormalities and tooth fractures.
Dental lab students work closely with instructors in labs where they learn to make prosthesis and corrective devices. Courses in this degree program include:
- Lab management
- Dental anatomy
Associate of Science in Dental Laboratory Technology
This associate's degree program is an extension of a certificate program in dental lab technology, with general education courses being added to the curriculum. Students learn dental techniques for creating prosthesis, caps, and veneers for both corrective and cosmetic purposes. Students work in labs where they learn to utilize dental equipment and technology. In order to graduate, students take oral and written examinations to demonstrate mastery of the curriculum and a practical examination to demonstrate their ability to use their hands to create molds and appliances.
Students learn about dental abnormalities and the techniques used in creating removable orthodontic appliances. Coursework in this degree program includes:
- Dental terminology
- Dental morphology
Bachelor of Science in Dental Laboratory Technology
Students learn about the current and emerging dental technologies used in assessing and treating patients for a variety of dental diseases and abnormalities. Coursework in dental science teaches students about tooth morphology, dental materials, and dental terminology. Students learn to become effective members of a dental team by demonstrating dental and business competencies using problem solving and analytical skills. In addition to attending seminars and lectures, students must complete an internship at a participating dental site.
Coursework teaches students about the current state of the dental profession, business management, and technical production. Common courses in this degree program include:
- Dental technology
- Lab procedures
- Dental Research
- Compliance in dentistry
Popular Career Options
Graduates of associate's programs go on to work in dental and orthodontic offices, dental labs, and dental manufacturing companies. Popular career choices for graduates include:
- Orthodontic lab technician
- Denture lab technician
- Dental ceramist
- Crown and bridge technician
Graduates of bachelor's programs go on to work in hospitals, physicians' offices, and dental supply companies. This degree program also offers graduates an opportunity to own and operate their own dental labs. Popular career areas for graduates include:
- Dental sales
- Dental manufacturing
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental lab technicians held 34,480 jobs in the U.S. in 2018. The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession would grow 11% between 2018 and 2028. The median salary for a dental lab technician in 2018 was $40,440.
Graduates of certificate programs are eligible to take the certified dental technologist (CDT) exam for national certification, which includes two written exams and a practical exam. Students may also transfer their credits into an associate degree program.
While a bachelor's degree is the terminal degree for students interested in entering this field, graduates may also be required to pass the CDT certification exam.
CDT certification ensures that students understand how to make crowns and bridges, ceramics, orthodontics, and partial and full dentures. CDTs are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education credits each year to maintain certification.
Certificate, associate's, and bachelor's programs are available to teach students about dental laboratory technology, preparing them to work in orthodontic labs, among other dental-related workplaces. Professional certification is available for graduates of these programs.