Dental technicians manufacture dental prosthetics including bridges, crowns, and dentures. They construct these devices based on impressions dentists and dental hygienists take of patients’ teeth. Dental technicians also follow dentists’ written and oral instructions. They have no direct contact with patients themselves.
Areas of specialization include orthodontic appliances, crowns, and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, or ceramics. In the Dental career industry, Dental technicians are also called dental laboratory technicians.
Two types of dental specialties rely heavily on the skills of a dental laboratory technician:
Restorative dentistry or prosthodontics is used when the patient loses a part or the entire tooth/teeth due to the decay, disease, illness or accident, and the tooth/teeth must be replaced to maintain normal fit, form and function.
Orthodontics is provided when the tooth/teeth must be moved or stabilized to optimize function, esthetics or to prevent painful dysfunction.
Dental laboratory technology specialties include:
Crown and bridge
The changes that affect modern dental laboratory technology are:
Advancements in material sciences, technologies and manufacturing systems
New legislations and regulations
Health care and education
Changing practice models and emerging team-based care systems
Global economies and market adjustments
Due to a shortage of technicians that is already affecting the field, it is certain that there is and will be a high demand for experienced dental technicians who can handle the needs of an ever-increasing number of dentists and their patients.
Technicians generally work independently. Because each job in a laboratory is different, the work is diverse and interesting. It is not strenuous work, but it does require close attention to detail. Dental laboratories are generally pleasant places in which to work, although there is sometimes pressure when deadlines must be met.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on technicians’ experience and area of specialization. Trainees in dental laboratories average only slightly above the minimum wage. However, earnings in this field increase greatly with experience. The median salary for dental technicians was $14.93 per hour in May 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Self-employed technicians can earn more.