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Dental Technician

Education and Training: High School. Specialty certificate.
Average Salary: $34,170
Job Outlook: Very good

Dental Technicians perform a variety of tasks for dentists, including filling prescriptions for dental work. Dental Technicians will receive an order from the dentist to manufacture a corrective dental piece like a crown, bridge, or dentures. The technicians then form a model of the person’s mouth — usually done by digital impression today — by pouring plaster into the mold. After reviewing the model once it is set to see the size and shape of nearby teeth, the dental technician will use instruments to help shape the device so it will fit comfortably in a patient’s mouth. Once that process is completed, the dental technicians will create an exact replica of the patient’s mouth.

Dental laboratory technicians can specialize in one of five areas—orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, or ceramics. Job titles can reflect specialization in these areas. In some laboratories, technicians perform all stages of the work.

Education and Training Requirements

A high school diploma is required to be a dental technician. It is recommended that high school students who want to become dental technicians take math and sciences courses, along with courses like wood shop, art, drafting, and those that teach computer skills.

Most dental technicians receive a large amount of on-the-job training once they are hired for a position. Dental technicians can also be certified through a program that is accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE), which includes work towards an associate’s degree or a certificate.

Getting the Job

Some type of work in the dental field, especially as a dental technician will help you obtain employment. There are plenty of dental technician jobs available, and many employers will hire you without on-the-job experience. Internships and apprenticeships will also help you secure employment.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Employment for dental technicians is expected to grow 14 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Positive growth factors include an aging population, which means more people will need specialized dental care. Also, people are having older fillings replaced with white-shaded fillings, which require the work of dental technicians. One negative factor affecting employment is technology. As advancements are made in dental prosthetics, there will be less need for dental technicians to complete orders.

In larger dental labs, the possibility exists for dental technicians to move on to supervisory roles. There is also the possibility of having dental technicians move on to jobs that improve products, sales, and marketing with dental companies. One can also open their own lab.

Working Conditions and Environment

Dental technicians usually work regular office hours and some weekends. The work is performed in labs or offices, and they have little to no contact with the public. Dental technicians also have to wear gloves, masks, goggles, and other protective equipment to protect them.

Salary and Benefits

Starting salaries for dental technicians usually fall between $25,000 and $35,000 per year. Dental offices typically have a median salary of dental technicians of $35,000, while labs typically pay a median wage of about $33,700 per year. The overall median salary is $34,170.

Where to Go for More Information

American Dental Association
211 E Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-2678
(312) 440-2500

National Association of Dental Laboratories
325 John Knox Rd. Ste. L103
Tallahassee, Florida 32303
(800) 950-1150

U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210
(866) 487-2365

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine