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, a steady hand, commitment to quality, business management|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$38,670 for dental lab technicians|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||14% for dental lab technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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.
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 $38,670 in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These jobs are predicted to have faster-than-average growth of 14% between 2016 and 2026, 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 22% was predicted by the BLS for orthotists and prosthetists from 2016 through 2026. According to the BLS, these workers, also referred to as O&P professionals, earned an annual median salary of $66,240 in 2017.
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. Slower than average job growth of 4% was projected by the BLS from 2016-2026 for these positions that paid an annual median wage of $48,820 in 2017.