Career Definition for a Pediatric Dental Technician
Dental technicians, including those who fill prescriptions for pediatric patients, make custom bridges, crowns, dentures and orthodontic appliances based on tooth molds and impressions. While technicians interact regularly with dentists, contact with the patients themselves is limited. Areas of specialization include bridges and crowns, partial or complete dentures, ceramics, implants and orthodontic appliances, such as braces.
Some of the materials dental technicians work with include plastic, porcelain and wax, which may be hand carved or sculpted to resemble actual teeth. They may also perform adjustments and repairs as needed. Technicians are typically employed in labs; those affiliated with larger units may focus on just one part of the production process.
|Education||High school diploma as a minimum; certificate and associate degree programs available|
|Certification||Voluntary credentials through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology|
|Job Skills||Detail-oriented, manual dexterity, color recognition, equipment skills|
|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
While a high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for getting started in the field, some colleges and vocational schools offer certificate or 2-year programs in dental technology; 4-year programs are less common. In general, the programs provide students with training in dental anatomy, ceramics and denture construction. Students may also take classes in fixed and removable orthodontic appliances, advanced orthodontics and esthetic arrangements. Individual programs might include topics in chemistry and metallurgy. Related studies in health and safety, communication and human relations may also be covered.
Voluntary certification is available from the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. Credentials are available in six areas of specialization, including ceramics, implants and orthodontic appliances. Candidates for certification must complete a program in dental technology from an accredited school, have five years of professional training or experience and pass three exams. The board also offers a Certificate of Competency in each specialized area, and requirements include a passing score on a practical and written exam.
Dental technicians must be detail-oriented and possess a high degree of manual dexterity. The ability to recognize discrete variations in tooth color and shape are also helpful. Technicians should be comfortable working with precision instruments as well as complex equipment and machines.
Job Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected faster than average growth of 14% in job opportunities for dental lab technicians in general from 2016 to 2026. As of May 2017, dental technicians earned a median annual wage of $38,670, as reported by the BLS.
Alternative Career Options
Listed here are some other options for pursuing careers in dental and technology support:
The responsibilities of a dental assistant can depend upon the dental office and state, but generally include activities related to patient care and record keeping. For example, assistants involved in patient care may provide information about oral hygiene or sterilize and handle dental instruments during procedures. Although state requirements vary, completion of a dental assisting program that has been accredited by the American Dental Association and a professional certification from the Dental Assisting National Board may be required for employment. From 2016 to 2026, opportunities for dental assistants are expected to increase by a much faster than average of 19%, as reported by the BLS. As of May 2017, dental assistants earned a median annual salary of $37,630, also according to the BLS.
Medical Appliance Technicians
Medical appliance technicians use materials and tools, such as fabrics, metals and plastics, to create and fit medical support devices based on the instructions of healthcare providers. These can include facial parts that have been affected by age, birth defects or disease. A high school diploma and on-the-job-training are the usual requirements for entering the field; formal academic or vocational programs are rare. As reported by the BLS, employment opportunities for medical appliance technicians are projected to increase by 14% from 2016 to 2026, a faster than average rate when compared to all other occupations. In May 2017, medical appliance technicians earned a median annual wage of $37,190, according to the BLS.