What Does a Dental Laboratory Technician Do?

DentalPost takes a look at what are the duties and responsibilities of a Dental Laboratory Technician.

Whether you are considering a career change, new to the workforce, or looking to invest in additional skills, you may want to consider a dental laboratory technician. A dental technician is essential to creating quality crafted dental prosthetics such as dentures, dental crowns, and bridges. You would work behind the scenes with impressions and prescriptions written by dentist professionals to craft individualized devices.

Dental laboratory technology is the science and art of manufacturing corrective devices for natural or false teeth. Dental health professionals depend on skilled technicians to treat patients and create beautiful and healthy smiles.

What Does it Take to be a Dental Technician?

There are multiple routes to become a dental technician. Before jumping into an accredited program, do research, and consider the local job market. The pay rates, commutes, and company cultures vary depending on the organization’s size, and only you can determine the best fit.

Some employers have the resources to provide on-the-job formal training and mentoring with the latest equipment, procedures, and techniques. You will learn how to perform simple duties like pouring plaster impressions a dentist has made of the patient’s teeth. Responsibilities will increasingly progress as needed by the dental practice.

It is not uncommon in smaller offices to see staff, such as a dental hygienist, performing activities typically considered a lab technician’s duties. Be mindful of this and expand your job searches to fit multiple job titles opportunities.

Another path to consider is to get formal instruction at a technical college, dental schools, or community colleges for a certification or Associates degree. These schools will help you understand the terminology, often intensive training in all phases of fixed dental prosthodontics, and tactile experience before entering the workforce. Many consider completing these programs an essential advantage to other job applicants.

In some cases, folks are trained through military service and may elect to gain certification upon entering the civilian workforce.

The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (CDT) offers a highly recognized credential program. It consists of a hands-on practical exam and three written exams within four years to evaluate a candidate’s skills and knowledge as a dental laboratory technician.

This certification exam will provide reassurance to future employers that your stated skills have been verified and sustained. The ADA, American Dental Association, actively promotes the CDT.

The Dental Laboratory Technology program offers six areas of specialty for candidates to choose from. These include: Implants, Ceramics, Orthodontics, Crown and Bridge, Partial Dentures, and Complete Dentures.

Quality technicians continue to hone their technical skills and artistic craft to exceed the dental office’s expectations and patient’s satisfaction.

What Type of Person Makes an Ideal Dental Laboratory Technician?

Each person possesses talents, abilities to learn, and soft skills that increase their potential success in a career path. Self-reflect or ask a trusted friend if you possess some of the attributes below; you may be surprised.

Dental lab technicians should have excellent and steady manual dexterity that allows for manipulation of hand tools for an extended period of time. Many of the instruments are small and require patience to carve intricate details into a dental appliance.

Reading comprehension to understand the dentist’s prescription and work orders is vital to success. It will prevent unnecessary rework and a satisfied patient the first time. Understanding and following operating standards will ensure a safe work environment for the employees and patients.

Work orders are expected to be completed promptly, making time management skills another essential skill. No one likes to feel rushed, but there are typically ways to prioritize a day and manage time more effectively.

Are you the type of person who listens carefully and then thinks outside of the box when a problem is encountered? Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians consider solutions daily.

Although you will be working behind the scenes independently, you will occasionally be expected to work on group projects. A balance of social and independence is essential.

Things to Think About

Lab technicians can work full-time, part-time, or on temporary assignments, and the job market is optimistic and teeming with opportunities.

Today computer and technology skills are a must. The latest technology utilizes CAD/CAM Dentistry (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in Dentistry) for dental restorations. This state-of-the-art technology can assist with accurate fittings and minimize adjustments.

Smaller practices may consider sharing dental techs with neighboring practices to create dental appliances from poured impressions or they most likely will use a separate lab.

A Dental Laboratory Technician’s Typical Day

Although no two days are the same, which is highly appealing to many people, a dental technician’s typical job duties vary from technical, artistic to administrative. All of which are important to ensure a quality end product.

A basic job description may include:

  • Finish partial or full denture implants and models
  • Fabricate veneers, implant restorations, and ceramic crowns
  • Complete complex porcelain fused to metal restorations.
  • Finish dental prostheses
  • Complete inventory, calibration, quality and other required paperwork for the facility.

Depending on the situation, lab technicians may fulfill other responsibilities at a dental office or a lab, mentor other technicians, and calibrate and quality check other technicians’ work.

Outlook of a Dental Lab Technician Career

In the United States, commercial dental laboratories employ most dental technicians, with some very large labs hiring 100 employees. However, a typical dental laboratory employs two to three employees. Some private dental and or orthodontic offices have their own laboratory.

According to the 2016 U.S. Occupational Outlook Handbook, a dental technician’s median full-time annual salary is $37,680. Technicians salaries are typically near the median income range each year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects lab technician jobs to grow much faster than the average occupation between 2016 and 2026.

NADL, the National Association of Dental Laboratories, is the dental laboratory industry’s voice supporting federal and state regulations to assure patients’ restorations are safe for use, regardless of where they are manufactured and other patient documents.

A dental lab technician can be an exciting and rewarding career path for the right candidates.


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