Dental technicians work with dentists to make crowns, dentures and bridges. They need on-the-job training to get started and have the option of certification. They use molds and samples sent from dentists and design materials specifically for a patient's mouth.
Dental technicians, also known as dental laboratory technicians, create dentures, bridges, crowns and veneers for dental patients. They can find employment in dental labs, manufacturing companies and dental offices. Aspiring dental technicians can get started in the field with only a high school diploma and some on-the-job training, although they may find formal training programs. After gaining work experience, individuals can pursue the optional Certified Dental Technician (CDT) certification through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology.
|Required Education||High school diploma with on-the-job training; optional completion of a formal training program|
|Certification||Optional CDT certification|
|Projected Job Growth||11% from 2014-2024*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$37,190 annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for Dental Technicians
Dental technicians work with dentists to create full and partial dentures, orthodontic appliances, bridges, crowns and veneers. Dentists send dental technicians a model of their patient's mouth along with a prescription for the type of denture, crown or bridge needed. The model can be a 3-dimensional putty mold or a digital impression.
Dental technicians use the mold or digital impression to make a plaster cast of the patient's mouth. They then attach the plaster cast to a special apparatus known as an articulator that simulates the opening and closing of a patient's jaw, allowing them to find the proper bite alignment. Once the articulator is aligned, dental technicians design and create a prosthetic that fits the perfectly within the patient's mouth. Prior to completion of the prosthetic, dental technicians ensure that the prosthetic matches the exact color and shape of the patient's original tooth or teeth. High heat is then applied to the prosthetic to bond all the materials used.
Dental technicians are expected to work with a range of materials, including plastics, waxes, alloys, steel, polymer glass and porcelain. They use tools like wax carvers, grinding equipment and porcelain furnaces. Dental technicians may work with all materials and perform all stages of tooth replacement, or they may specialize in creating certain items like full dentures, ceramics, partial dentures or orthodontic appliances.
Employment opportunities for entry-level dental technicians can be found in commercial dental labs, manufacturing companies and dentist's offices. Dental technicians with advanced experience may also find positions as instructors in dental laboratory education programs. They may also be self-employed and own an office.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the expected growth for dental laboratory technicians is faster than average at 11% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS attributes this growth to the decreasing cost of cosmetic prosthetics. The median yearly wages for dental laboratory technicians in May 2015 were $37,190.
While dental technicians work in the dental industry, they tend to work at off-site labs. Dentists send in dental impressions and samples. Dental technicians are required to have a high school diploma and training, but can benefit from certification.