How Can I Become a Dental Lab Technician?

Explore the career requirements for dental lab technicians. Get the facts about training options, certification, job growth and salary 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 Lab Technician?

Following detailed orders and prescriptions, dental lab technicians are specialists who manufacture dental prosthetics, such as crowns, dentures and bridges. Their duties include repairing damaged or broken dental devices. Though their contact with patients is minimal at best, they do work closely with dentists to fulfill a patient's dental needs. They may choose from several areas of specialization, including implants, orthodontic appliances, partial dentures or complete dentures, among others. To learn more about this career field, check out the following table:

Training Required Training typically completed on the job; postsecondary programs are also available, but rare
Key Skills Manual dexterity, technical skills and attention to detail
Certification Voluntary certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%*
Median Salary (2015) $33,950*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Dental Lab Technician?

As a dental lab technician, you would create crowns, dentures, veneers, bridges and other dental pieces specifically for each patient. You would work with your hands using wax, plaster and metal to create dental prosthetics from a plaster mold of a patient's mouth. You could work in a large laboratory with many other technicians or in a smaller lab for a specific dentist. You could specialize in a certain area of the field, including ceramics or crowns and bridges, or you could perform all the duties required of you in the lab.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

According to 2015 data from O*Net OnLine, 43% of dental technicians have completed a high school education, while 22% have earned a college certificate. While still in high school, you may want to focus on courses in science, shop and art in order to prepare for the dental technology field.

You could also enroll in an associate's degree program for dental technicians. The Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association accredits degree programs for dental laboratory technology. These programs typically require you to take classes in dental and orthodontic sciences. Many of the programs prepare you to take the national examination for certification.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

You do not need to gain certification to work as a dental lab technician, but you may choose to seek the Certified Dental Technician (CDT) designation offered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. To be eligible to take the CDT exam, you must have a high school diploma or its equivalent and meet the education and experience requirements.

If you complete an approved dental technology program, you must also have two years of experience in a dental laboratory or have completed the Board's Recognized Graduate (RG) program. If you do not attend a 2-year degree program, you will be eligible after five years of training and experience. If you complete the RG program, you will be eligible after three years of additional experience.

What Are some Related Alternative Careers?

Armed with only a high school diploma and some on-the-job training, you may qualify to become an optician. However, formal training programs that result in a certificate or an associate's degree are available at technical schools and community colleges. Working with patients, the dispensing optician helps them decide of the style of glasses or contact lenses. They conduct and record various measurements to ascertain the correct fit for corrective eyewear. They prepare work orders for ophthalmic lab techs in order to ensure that the proper lenses are produced. They may also repair or replace damaged frames.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in order to qualify to become a medical equipment repairer, you'll need an associate's degree in either engineering or biomedical technology. If you specialize, you'll need a bachelor's degree, especially if you want to advance the career. Certification is not required but can be beneficial to your employability and/or advancement possibilities. Duties include the installation, maintenance and repair of equipment used in patient care. Types of equipment include anesthesia machines, ventilator, defibrillators and other various hydraulic, electronic, electromechanical and imaging equipment used in hospitals and healthcare clinics and facilities.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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