Requirements to Work in a Dental Lab

Sep 15, 2019

Dental lab technician are skilled with their hands and craft dental prostheses including dentures, bridges and crowns. There are no formal education requirements, and most dental lab technicians learn about their craft through on-the-job training. Additionally, while certification is not required, there are voluntary certifications available to demonstrate competency and credibility to employers.

Essential Information

To work in a dental lab, a person must first become a dental lab technician. Dental laboratory technicians make dentures, crowns, bridges and other dental devices. They work with metal and plaster to mold the device to the patient's teeth. There are no formal education requirements, but there are a number of degree and certification programs available.

Career Dental Laboratory Technician
Required Education On-the-job training
Other Requirements Voluntary certification available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11%
Median Salary (2018)* $40,440

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements to Work in a Dental Lab

There are no formal requirements for becoming a dental laboratory technician, and most training is completed on the job. Interested individuals must be able to work well with their hands, because a majority of their intended job involves molding and crafting dental devices. Art classes are also beneficial to train the creative eye of the potential dental lab technician. And science classes are vital, as science in the foundation of basic dentistry.

However, there are many colleges and universities in the United States that offer formal dental technician programs. The American Dental Association (ADA) is the accrediting body for these programs, which typically take two years to complete. There are also a few 4-year bachelor's degree programs that offer degrees in dental technology. The ADA has approximately 24 accredited dental technology programs in the country.

Certification Requirements

The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NADL) offers a Certified Dental Technicians (CDT) certification that proves mastery in dental technology and gives potential dental lab technicians a great advantage over other applicants. Those who wish to become certified must take three examinations within a 4-year period. The exams consist of a general written portion, a specialty practical and a specialty written part. Potential CDTs are required to choose a specialty from crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, ceramics or orthodontics. Individuals with one specialty are Generalists while those certified in all five are Technologists.

There is also a Recognized Graduate (RG) designation available for men and women who are enrolled in an educational program acknowledged by the National Board for Certification. Once a student passes the RG exam, he or she has four years to pass two more exams and become a CDT, if they choose.

Career Requirements to Work in a Dental Lab

Most dental laboratory technicians perform training on the job for two to three years. They act as apprentices for established lab technicians before being able to practice on their own. As apprentices, aspiring lab technicians learn how to properly mold and create dental devices, make appropriate judgment calls and better understand the inner working of dental laboratories.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment growth is expected to be much faster than the average for dental technicians through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In May 2018, the BLS also reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $64,180 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $25,320 or less per year.

Aside from on-the-job training to become a dental lab technician, there is little in the way of formal education required for working in a dental lab. Ideally, someone working in a dental lab will be observant, thorough, organized, skilled with their hands, and have a passion for dentistry.

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