Dental technicians, also called dental laboratory technicians, manufacture dental prosthetics including bridges
and dentures according to specifications dentists
send to them. They work in specialties that include orthodontic appliances
, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, or ceramics. Dental technicians are also called dental laboratory technicians.
Dental technicians held 46,000 jobs in 2008.
Although dental technicians generally receive on-the-job training, many employers prefer to hire job candidates who have received formal training available through community colleges and vocational-technical schools and the U.S. Armed Forces
. As of 2004, there were 25 dental laboratory programs accredited by the American Dental Association
. Most are two year programs that lead to an associates degree, but some are four year programs that lead to a bachelor's degree.
In addition to receiving classroom instruction, dental technicians also need hands-on experience. Some dental technicians choose to become certified. The National Board for Certification, an independent board established by the National Association of Dental Laboratories
, offers voluntary certification in dental laboratory technology. One who wants to become a dental technician should have good manual dexterity, good vision, and be adept at recognizing very fine color shadings and variations in shape. Another important trait is an artistic aptitude
for detailed and precise work.
Experienced dental technicians who work in large laboratories may become supervisors or managers. Some may teach or work for dental suppliers. Others may open their own laboratories.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that average employment growth for dental technicians will be faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.*
Dental technicians earned a median annual salary of $34,820 and median hourly wages of $16.74 in 2009.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much dental technicians currently earn in your city.
A Day in a Dental Technician's Life:
On a typical day a dental technician will make crowns, bridges, dentures, and other dental prosthetics based on dentists' prescriptions. These are some of the steps she will take to make a dental prosthetic device:
- create a model of a patient's mouth by pouring plaster into an impression (mold) made by a dentist;
- examine the model taking note of the patient's bite, surrounding teeth and gum line;
- build and shape a wax model of the patient's teeth or tooth, which the dental technician will use to cast a metal framework for the prosthetic device;
- after casting the metal framework, the dental technician will prepare its surface to adhere to the porcelain "teeth";
- form "teeth" from porcelain by applying it in layers to the prepared metal framework;
- continue to adjust the color and shape of the tooth or teeth, which includes placing it in a porcelain furnace which will allow the porcelain to bake onto the metal framework;
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, Medical, Dental, and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos238.htm (visited November 11, 2010).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Dental Laboratory Technicians, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/51-9081.00 (visited November 11, 2010).
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