Dental Materials

Dental materials is a field of study that you can pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Career opportunities exist in dentistry, lab technology, research and education. Read on to discover if the field of dental materials is right for you.

Is a Career in Dental Materials for Me?

Career Overview

The study of dental materials, including plastic, gold, porcelain, chrome and metal alloys, may help you find work in a variety of professions, including dental laboratory technology, medical science and dentistry. Dental materials are used to make fillings, implants and dental devices such as dentures.

Career Options

Dental laboratory technicians shape dental materials into crowns, bridges, dentures, implants and other dental devices as prescribed by dentists. As a dental laboratory technician, you might work in commercial dental labs, dentists' offices, hospitals or for manufacturers of dental materials. You could also open your own business. Some technicians choose to teach in dental laboratory technology programs. A career in technical sales is another option.

Medical scientists typically perform research for industry, universities, hospitals or the federal government. As a dentist, you might run your own practice or work in a group practice with other dentists. Hospitals and dental equipment manufacturers employ some dentists.

Dentists in general provide a broad scope of services to patients including using dental materials and providing patients with dental devices. Prosthodontists are specialized dentists who typically work with dental materials. Your duties as a prosthodontist might include fitting patients with dentures or permanent devices to replace teeth or correct abnormalities.

Employment Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that jobs for dental laboratory technicians would increase three percent between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Dental laboratory technicians earned a median salary of $36,090 as of 2012, the BLS reported.

The BLS predicted that employment opportunities for medical scientists would grow 13% between 2012 and 2022. Medical scientists received a median wage of $76,980 as of 2012, the BLS said.

Jobs for dentists are expected to increase 16% between 2012 and 2022, according to BLS projections. Dentists in general practice earned a median salary of $149,310 as of 2012, the BLS said, and prosthodontists received median pay of $169,130.

What Education Do I Need to Work in Dental Materials?

Undergraduate Education

Most dental lab technicians are trained on the job, but dental laboratory technology programs can provide formal training in the use of dental materials and other skills. Most of these are 2-year programs offered through community colleges and vocational schools. A few schools have bachelor's degree programs in dental laboratory technology. Dental lab technology programs will teach you how to work with various types of dental materials. The coursework typically includes dental anatomy, denture fabrication, chemistry, safety training, lab management and bridge and crown construction. Dental laboratory technology programs usually include both classroom studies and lab experience.

Graduate Education

Some schools offer graduate degree programs in dental materials that lead to a Master of Science (M.S.) for dentists or for students without a dental degree. You may also obtain a Master of Science in Dentistry (M.S.D.) for dentists. An M.S.D. is an option if you want to enhance your dental expertise, fulfill requirements for dental specialty boards or if you want to teach clinical subjects. An M.S. program in dental materials may allow you to further your studies in a doctoral degree program so that you can pursue a career in research or academia.

Licensing

All states require licensing for dentists. You'll need an additional license if you choose to practice in a dental specialty. To obtain dentist licensing, you typically need to graduate from an accredited dental program, pass testing and meet training requirements. Typically, a dentist holds a Doctor of Dental Surgery or an equivalent degree.

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