Dental Technology Careers: Salary and Job Facts

Explore the career requirements for dental technicians. Get the facts about training and certification requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Dental Technician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Dental Technology Career?

Individuals who want a career in dental technology become dental technicians. The career involves creating dentures, crowns and other dental prosthetics based on molds of people's teeth. They work with small hand tools as well as specialized computer software in order to fabricate these appliances. Some dental technicians specialize in orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants or ceramics.

The following chart gives you an overview about dental technology.

Degree Required High school diploma or associate's degree
Training Required On-the-job training is an option
Key Responsibilities Fabricate crowns, bridges, dentures and other dental appliances from impressions of patient's teeth; use tools to shape and polish dental appliances; ensure quality of fabrication and accuracy of fit; repair damaged dental appliances
Certification Professional certification in 6 specialty areas is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11%*
Median Salary (2015) $37,190*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do With a Career in Dental Technology?

Dental technicians, also known as dental laboratory technicians, work with dentists to create prosthetics and other pieces, such as dentures, crowns and bridges, for patients. Each patient will have different needs, requiring you to be thorough and detailed in your work. The procedure for creating dental prosthetics generally takes three steps and, depending on the lab in which you work, you may do all or only some of the plaster casting, wax modeling and metal framing.

What Education Do I Need?

You are not required to have a degree to become a dental technician. A high school diploma is enough to gain entry into the field. In high school, you may choose to focus on math and science as well as some computer and art classes. Much of the training you need to become a dental technician can be done on the job as you work your way up from entry-level duties.

Some relevant associate's degree and certificate programs for aspiring prosthetic laboratory technicians are available in the United States. Such a program may give you the training and experience you need to work as a dental technician, a vocation that involves both science and artistry. If you are interested in receiving formal education, you should seek a program that is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the American Dental Association.

Do I Need to be Certified?

Certification is not required to be become a dental technician, though Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas have laws requiring at least one Certified Dental Technician (CDT) to be employed at each dental laboratory. Certification is offered through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (www.nbccert.org). The three-part certifying examination, which you may take after completing an accredited degree program or five years of dental technology experience, tests your knowledge and skill in dental technology.

How Much Can I Expect to Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental laboratory technicians made a median annual wage of $37,190 in May 2015. The BLS also notes that the job outlook for dental technicians is expected to be faster than average, at 11%, in the decade from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Payscale.com reports that, in January 2017, dental laboratory technicians in the 10th to 90th percentile made an average salary in the range between $23,440 - $70,88.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in creating medical appliances, you could also consider becoming an ophthalmic laboratory technician. These professionals follow the prescriptions of optometrists and/or ophthalmologists to make eyeglasses and contact lenses. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma. Alternatively, if you are looking for a job in the dental field, you could consider becoming a dental hygienist, where you would perform basic procedures like teeth cleaning, x-rays and fluoride application. Dental hygienists need to earn an associate's degree and pass a licensure exam.

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