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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

Dental Laboratory Technicians Skills

Below are the skills needed to be dental laboratory technicians according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Reading Comprehension3.253.12
Critical Thinking3.123.12
Quality Control Analysis3.123.25
Time Management3.123
Operation Monitoring32.75

Dental Laboratory Technicians Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be dental laboratory technicians according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Finger Dexterity3.884
Near Vision3.754.25
Control Precision3.623.88
Arm-Hand Steadiness3.623.62
Visualization3.53.5

Dental Laboratory Technicians Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be dental laboratory technicians according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Production and Processing4.494.71
Design4.214.65
Medicine and Dentistry4.174.42
Customer and Personal Service3.924.03
English Language3.633.05

Dental Laboratory Technicians Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being dental laboratory technicians according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Getting Information4.273.39
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events3.843.7
Making Decisions and Solving Problems3.84.19
Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings3.774.22
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work3.754.1

Dental Laboratory Technicians Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being dental laboratory technicians according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work StyleImportance
Attention to Detail4.86
Dependability4.38
Integrity4.36
Persistence4.26
Cooperation4.18

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Dental Laboratory Technicians

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Dental Laboratory Technicians jobs , as of 2017

   
Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim2,330 $41,470
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach730 $36,530
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater660 $43,980
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn600 $37,050
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington600 $43,250
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell590 $41,440
Salt Lake City520 $44,340
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale500 $46,950
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue450 $47,140
San Antonio-New Braunfels450 $52,560

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to dental laboratory technicians

Source : 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

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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.