Salary for a Dental Laboratory Technician

DentalPost takes a look at what are the salary and outlook of a Dental Laboratory Technician.

Get ready to smile! If you’re considering a job as a dental laboratory technician, then you’re about to embark on an invigorating and satisfying career. However, before you get started, you should learn what to expect.

Keep reading to find out the job duties, formal training and potential earnings. With this information, you can discover if this engaging career is right for you.

What is the Job Description for a Dental Laboratory Technician?

Before choosing any career track, you should understand the job duties first. A dental laboratory technician may be referred to more commonly as a CDT in the industry. You should never confuse a CDT with a dental hygienist.

Hygienists work in offices and provide direct patient care. A technician will work in commercial dental laboratories or dental offices by making dental prosthetics for cosmetic and functional procedures.

People go to cosmetic dentists for dentures, partial dentures, veneers and more. These procedures all require additional tools and technology to provide patients with the best smile possible.

Therefore, a large part of your role as a technician deals with prosthodontics. A technician in this space should expect to make dental prosthetics and other orthodontic products. Because of the advanced nature of this specialized work, technician jobs are extremely important.

What Hand Tools and Technologies Are Used?

If you’re a technician in a dental lab, you must be trained in a variety of advanced technical skills. These professionals must have an advanced working knowledge of oral anatomy, dental technique and different dental appliance devices. While you might have many different job titles as a technician, your fundamental job description is to make dental fixtures for patients.

The tools used on the job will relate to the type of work being done. For example, when creating dentures, you’ll need to use imaging tools and a means of casting the teeth. Porcelain and other ceramics are commonly used for dental prostheses.

You should also expect to use some of the latest software available. A growing number of dental labs will employ CAD/CAM technology. CAD is best known for its applications in building and design, but it can now be used for rendering teeth and creating dental prosthetics.

What Formal Training Does a Dental Laboratory Technician Need?

Given the wide range of skills and experiences needed to complete the job, dental technicians must have a significant amount of training. The federal government doesn’t impose any national standards, but each state has its own list of requirements to be certified as a CDT. Moreover, many dental labs hire candidates based on the official certification system set up by the National Association of Dental Laboratories in accordance with the American Dental Association.

If you’re a prospective dental lab technician, you’re encouraged to get training at dental schools, a technical college or other advanced schooling institutions. In these contexts, it’s possible to earn either a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree.

Alternatively, you might get your training to be a technician on the job. In these positions, you will usually start off at a lower-level position and work your way up. This hands-on experience can be crucial to future success.

No matter what training route you take as a technician, it’s important to finalize your career path with the certification process. There is a National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. You must pass a detailed certification exam in order to hold an official title that’s recognized by the ADA.

Any route to certification is totally acceptable. For most technicians, it’s best to have a background comprised of a dental laboratory technology program and real-world training. This way, you’ll have a working knowledge of the theory, anatomy, technology and more.

What is the Salary for Full-time Positions?

Salary should never be the sole reason for your career path. However, let’s face the facts. It would be naive to think that your paycheck doesn’t matter.

Therefore, before becoming a dental lab technician, spend some time assessing the salary options. To grasp your potential earnings, it’s vital to realize that salary can vary widely in the career. The key factors will be location, lab size and experience.

In general, a position at a smaller lab will pay better than a larger lab. Smaller labs have fewer positions available, which means that these labs tend to be more competitive. In a large lab, a starting technician might make around $30,000 a year compared to nearly $50,000 at a small lab with fewer than 10 technicians on staff.

Another factor to consider is the type of position. In some situations, CDTs are hourly employees. For these individuals, starting pay can vary between $13 per hour and $16 per hour.

By contrast, a salaried position will come with more benefits. You should be sure to find out if the position comes with health insurance, paid vacation and other perks. These benefits should be considered in addition to the base pay.

As with most careers, technicians’ salaries go up with experience. At the highest level, a dental lab technician could earn between $73,000 and $95,000. For hourly employees, this rate will vary between $24 and $27 per hour.

Ways to Increase Earning Potential

It’s clear that working in a dental lab as a technician can be a gratifying and lucrative career. However, for truly ambitious individuals, it’s important to understand that there are further avenues for advancement. If you’re interested in taking your career even further, then you can pursue additional certifications and specializations.

Specializations allow technicians to show advanced skill and expertise in specific areas of dentistry. For example, some technicians become specialized in ceramics. This means that you’re an expert in working with ceramics for dentures and other prostheses.

Other areas of specialization include orthodontics, crowns, bridges, implants, complete dentures and partial dentures. To obtain official specialization, certain standards must be met. There are specialized certification exams to prove your experience and expertise.

These certifications aren’t necessary, but they can help you advance your career and carve out a professional niche with your employer. Such specialization is an excellent way to stay active and engaged as a dental professional. This is how you can turn your job into a vibrant career.

What Is the Outlook for Dental Lab Technicians?

Salary is important, but the paycheck only matters if you can actually find a job. Fortunately, there’s more good news. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is overwhelmingly positive.

In fact, the need for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians in the United States is growing at a whopping rate of 9 percent each year. In 2019, there were 81,200 positions across the country. That number is expected to increase in 2021 and beyond.

As cosmetic dentistry becomes more advanced it will become more accessible to a wider range of people. This increased accessibility will increase the need for qualified technicians. Accordingly, industry experts are fully confident that cosmetic dentistry will be a vibrant field for quite some time.

The Bottom Line

There’s a lot to gain from starting your career as a technician at a dental lab. The job outlook is good, and the earning potential is significant. Plus, you’ll be working with some of the most advanced technology currently available.

However, in the end, the best part about the job is helping other people with dental health. If you want to make someone smile, then this might be the right career for you.


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