Orthodontic Technician: Job Duties and Requirements

Orthodontic technicians create the appliance prescribed by an orthodontist who has measured and made a dental impression for a patient. Keep reading to explore the training, skills, salary and employment outlook for this profession.

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Career Definition for an Orthodontic Technician

Orthodontic technicians create dental appliances designed to improve the alignment of patients' teeth and jaws, based upon the prescriptions and impressions submitted by orthodontists. Orthodontic technicians typically work in dental laboratories, using metal and plastics to create appliances uniquely fitted to each patient's mouth and therapeutic requirements. The appliances are sent back to the orthodontists for final fitting and adjustments.

Education High school classes in art and drafting recommended, programs available
Job Skills Eye for detail, steady hand, commitment to quality, business management
Median Salary (2015)* $37,190 for dental lab technicians
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for dental lab technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Background

Students interested in orthodontic technology should take high school courses in art and drafting, as well as metal and wood shop. Community and junior colleges may offer 2-year programs in dental laboratory technology, which would cover the basic skills needed to become an orthodontic technician. An associate's degree will improve a candidate's chances of being hired by a dental laboratory, but is not always required, as laboratories often conduct their own training programs. A student would generally take a total of 3-4 years to be fully trained in orthodontic technology.

Skills Needed

The creation of orthodontic appliances to rigid specifications is a delicate craft which requires a good eye for detail, a steady hand, familiarity with tools and materials, and pride in producing high-quality work. Orthodontic technicians who wish to open their own laboratories should have people skills and business management experience.

Career and Economic Outlook

The median annual salary for dental laboratory technicians, a category that includes orthodontic technicians, was $37,190 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These jobs are predicted to have faster-than-average growth of 11% between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Consider these other career choices in medical maintenance:

Orthotist and Prosthetist

Requiring a master's degree in the field and certification, these professions involve designing, measuring and fitting patients with medical supportive devices, such as braces and artificial limbs. Much faster-than-average employment growth of 23% was predicted by the BLS for orthotists and prosthetists from 2014 through 2024. According to the BLS, these workers, also referred to as O&P professionals, earned an annual median salary of $64,430 in 2015.

Medical Equipment Repairer

With an associate's degree in engineering or biomedical technology, these professionals install and repair a wide variety of patient care equipment used in hospitals and health practices. Average job growth of 6% was projected by the BLS from 2014-2024 for these positions that paid an annual median wage of $46,340 in 2015.

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