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Training for Certified Dental Technicians: Program Overviews

Dental lab technicians make ceramic crowns, bridges, and other appliances for patients. While most are trained on the job, some choose to enroll in the few certificate or associate's degree programs in the country that are accredited in the field.

Essential Information

One-year certificate and two-year associate's degree programs in dental laboratory technology combine classroom work with lab experiences to teach students to craft prosthetic dental appliances. Courses included within a certificate program in dental lab technology cover all of the basics of dental laboratory materials and procedures. Graduates may qualify to apply for national certification for dental technicians, which requires passing a series of written and practical examinations. Certification is offered in several specialty areas. Certification is voluntary, but proves expertise in the field to prospective employers. Prerequisites include a GED or high school diploma and a GPA of 2.5 or higher for an associate's degree. Experience in the field is preferred. Laboratory work is often included


Dental Laboratory Technology Certificate

Certificate programs in the field of dental laboratory technology typically take one year to complete and provide students with the specific skills and knowledge necessary to gain positions within dental laboratories. Students learn about basic dental materials, anatomy and physiology. They also work in a laboratory, learning how to create complete dentures, partial dentures, ceramics, crowns and bridges.

Some specific class topics include:

  • Dental lab materials
  • Dental anatomy and physiology
  • Partial dentures
  • Ceramic dentures
  • Fixed prosthodontics

Associate of Applied Science in Dental Laboratory Technology

Some schools offer 2-year programs in dental laboratory technology for students who wish to transfer their certificate credits over and earn a degree in the field. Other schools offer such programs for incoming freshmen who are unfamiliar with dental lab technology, but who are interested in learning the basics of the career. In addition to providing training in basic dental anatomy and dental prosthetics construction, associate's degree programs in the field also provide a broader background into the dental field and include additional general education courses.

Many of the basic dental anatomy and laboratory procedures courses found in a certificate program in dental lab technology are also found in an associate's degree program in the field. Other subjects that might be covered in such a program include:

  • Dental history and ethics
  • Complete dentures
  • Orthodontic appliances
  • Dental laboratory practicum
  • Advanced dental laboratory techniques
  • Fixed prosthetics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental lab technicians held about 37,520 positions in 2015. Most of these individuals worked for medical equipment manufacturing companies, dentists' offices and the federal government. The annual median salary in the profession was about $37,190 as of 2015 (www.bls.gov).

Certification Options

Individuals who are interested in becoming certified dental laboratory technicians must complete a series of examinations given by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. These three examinations include a practical examination and a written comprehensive examination. Dental lab technicians receiving certification can also choose to specialize in one of the following areas: crown and bridge, complete dentures, partial dentures, ceramics or orthodontics.

Certificate and associate degree programs are available for individuals interested in becoming dental lab technicians. In these programs students will learn about physiology, construction of oral appliances, and working with patients in order to prepare for certification.


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