Dental laboratory technicians operate laboratory equipment to create dental fixtures. On-the-job training is an important aspect of becoming a dental laboratory technician, and certification can be achieved after meeting experience requirements and passing an exam. They can specialize in areas such as dentures, crowns, bridges, or orthodontic appliances.
Dental laboratory technicians take orders from dentists, then design and construct dental replacements like bridges, dentures, crowns and orthopedic appliances. In doing this, technicians use plaster, wax, metals and casts to duplicate teeth. While a high school diploma is the basic requirement to enter this field, certificate and degree programs are also available.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Other Requirements||Optional certification from National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||11%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$37,190|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Education Requirements for Dental Laboratory Technicians
The minimum education requirement for dental laboratory technicians is a high school diploma or equivalent. Students interested in this field of work should focus their high school studies on math, science, information technology, wood shop and art. Many individuals learn how to become dental laboratory technicians through on-the-job training and by moving up through experience.
Associate's Degrees and Certificates
Junior college programs dedicated to educating and training dental laboratory technicians are available across the country. Continuing education schooling is also offered to working technicians. Community colleges and technical schools offer associate's degrees and certificates in dental laboratory technology, which must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association (CODA). CODA's website reports that there are 19 accredited programs in the United States.
These programs offer both clinical and classroom work. Students will be taught safety principles, laboratory equipment operation, denture and bridge construction, plaster use, anatomy, science and math.
Those already working in this field can be designated as a Certified Dental Technician from the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC). This certification is mandatory in only three states, but it can enhance the employability of dental laboratory technicians in any state. Certification in specialty areas is available as well. Specialty areas include complete dentures, crowns and bridges, orthodontic appliances and partial dentures. The certification requires written and practical tests as well as a required number of years having worked in the industry.
Dental laboratory technicians construct prescriptions from dentists, most often some form of artificial teeth required for a patient. Often, dentists send the order with an impression of the patient in question's teeth, either physically or digitally. The technician makes a model of the patient's mouth, using an understanding of how the jaw and teeth fit together to create an accurate reading. Dental laboratory technicians use a number of tools, including furnaces, Bunsen burners, polishing equipment, carvers and computers to help them create artificial teeth.
Dental laboratory technicians typically work in a laboratory with teeth impressions and samples sent directly from dentists. They need a high school diploma and training to begin work, but may also benefit from optional certification.