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Dental laboratory technicians make or fix dental appliances to help dental patients achieve better oral health or improved oral functioning. A technician could create anything from bridges to crowns or dentures, as requested by a dentist, but also repair these items or make adjustments. Often, they learn their skills on the job, but may be able to specialize in crowns and bridges, complete dentures, ceramics, or other related areas. While they need to be able to work with their hands, they also need to know how to use various types of technologies and equipment to create the needed appliances.

Expectations vary based on the size of the dental laboratory. In some laboratories, a dental technician performs every stage of the procedure, while in others they perform just a few steps or processes, which may lead them to specialization. For this reason, there are many different job titles available for dental laboratory technicians, some of which include dental ceramist, dental technician, denture technician, porcelain technician, partial design and survey technician, or crown and bridge dental lab technician.

Dental Lab Technician Responsibilities

Whether they work for a a small or large laboratory, dental laboratory technicians often have many of the same responsibilities. In general, they may need to:

  • Bake porcelain onto metal framework by using porcelain furnaces
  • Build and shape wax teeth
  • Determine the design of dental products to be constructed
  • Fabricate, alter and repair dental devices such as bridges, crowns, dentures, inlays
  • Test appliances to ensure conformance to specifications and accuracy of occlusion
  • Prepare metal surfaces for bonding with porcelain to produce artificial teeth
  • Polish surfaces of frameworks and prostheses

Dental Lab Technician Job Characteristics

Most dental laboratory technicians work 40 hours per week and usually have their own workbenches. However, the size of a laboratory can vary significantly from very small to large, and from just a few people to hundreds of employees. Here's what else dental laboratory technicians can expect on the job:

  • There is usually minimal contact with the public
  • A significant amount of time may be spent bending or standing, including at their particular bench
  • They may face certain health risks when handling various materials, but these risks can be minimized by following established safety procedures
  • Labs are typically well-ventilated, well-lit and organized

Skills that are preferred in good dental laboratory technicians include:

  • Manual dexterity
  • Good vision
  • The ability to recognize very fine color shadings and shape variations
  • Technical skills to operate different kinds of machinery

Dental Lab Tech Salary and Employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following information about dental laboratory technicians nationwide:

  • Total Employed: 35,320, in 2014
  • Job Growth: 3% from 2012 to 2022
  • Average Salary: $40,140 in 2014

Those working in Alaska, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Montana had the highest mean annual wages, all above $46,000, in 2014. Individuals often can advance in their career by working in a large laboratory and becoming a supervisor or a person to help train new technicians, according to the BLS.

Education, Certification and Licensing

Most people enter the dental lab technician field through on-the-job training, although some community colleges and vocational schools offer educational programs. The Commission on Dental Accreditation in conjunction with the American Dental Association does provide accreditation for numerous dental laboratory technology programs at the postsecondary level. However, a high school diploma often is enough to start training on the job. According to the BLS, helpful high school courses include:

  • Art
  • Computer programming
  • Math
  • Science

Certification is not necessary to work as a dental laboratory technician, although six different certifications are available under the Certified Dental Technician (CDT) designation offered through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. These certifications include:

  • Crowns and bridges
  • Ceramics
  • Complete dentures
  • Implants
  • Orthodontic appliances
  • Partial dentures

Licensing is not needed to enter the dental laboratory technician field. However, those who work in other related occupations, such as the dental hygienist, do need to have state licensure.

Major Dental Employers

  • Laboratories
  • Health and personal care stores
  • Medical equipment businesses
  • Supplies manufacturing companies
  • Dentist offices

Resources

  • Commission on Dental Accreditation, American Dental Association
  • National Association of Dental Laboratories
  • National Board of Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology
  • American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics

Sources:

  1. Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/dental-and-ophthalmic-laboratory-technicians-and-medical-appliance-technicians.htm
  2. Dental Hygienist, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm
  3. Dental Laboratory Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes519081.htm

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Dental Laboratory Technicians

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Dental Laboratory Technicians jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

     
Metro Area Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Los Angeles 1980 $40,420
Long Beach 1980 $40,420
Anaheim 1980 $40,420
Scottsdale 900 $40,150
Mesa 900 $40,150
Phoenix 900 $40,150
West Palm Beach 830 $35,300
Fort Lauderdale 830 $35,300
Miami 830 $35,300
Atlanta 690 $35,160
Total Employment for Dental Laboratory Technicians - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Total Employment for Dental Laboratory Technicians
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Salaries for Dental Laboratory Technicians - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Salaries for Dental Laboratory Technicians
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Total Employment and Salary for Professions Similar to Dental Laboratory Technicians

Most Popular Industries for :
Dental Laboratory Technicians

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Miscellaneous Manufacturing 35,350 83% $33,700
Medical Office 6,090 14% $34,920
Government 580 1% $51,950
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Results:  8
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Merced
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  • Dental Assistant
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  • Main campus is located in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles.
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Panorama City
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  • Certificate - Dental Assistant

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San Marcos
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  • Dental Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
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  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
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  • Certificate - Dental Assistant
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
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  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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Temecula
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  • Dental Assistant
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  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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West Covina
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Dental Laboratory Technicians.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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