How to become a dental technician?

The article takes a closer look at the career of a dental technician, their core responsibilities, what is required to become one, and their average annual salary prospects.

October 26, 2023
Oral Health

Becoming a dental technician can be an excellent career choice for many, especially those who are technically minded and have a keen interest in healthcare job opportunities. Dental technicians are a vital part of the dentistry profession and are usually employed by dental laboratories. They plan, design, and create dental prostheses such as full dentures, partial bridges, and specialist orthodontic insertions using dental x-rays, models, and molded impressions of patients’ mouths and teeth. In order to become a qualified dental technician, specialized education and training are required.

In this article, we teamed up with experts from job aggregator Jooble to take a closer look at what a dental technician does, how to become one, their average annual salary, and an outline of the work involved.

What does a dental technician do?

Dental technicians design and create dental prostheses, replacements for missing teeth, and corrective orthodontics in two categories of dentistry, cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics.

Cosmetic dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry involves the creation of whole or partial dentures, as well as crowns and veneers, known as prosthodontics. This is required when patients lose all or a portion of their teeth and require prosthetic teeth to restore normal function. 

Orthodontics

This involves adjusting, removing, or stabilizing misaligned teeth that may cause discomfort and reduced function. Dental technicians create braces, retainers, and other aligners to compensate for these types of conditions.

Duties and tasks of a dental technician

  • Creating dental prostheses (dentures) using the patient's mouth impressions taken by a dentist.
  • Creating veneers, crowns, and bridges using models and molds.
  • Correcting orthodontic problems with devices such as dental braces and plates.
  • Making mouthguards and other dental devices.
  • Examining patients' dental impressions, photos, and x-rays.
  • Employing methods like metal casting, wax modeling, and plaster casting in their work.
  • Collaborating closely with dentists and dental prosthodontists.
  • Creating tooth improvements or replacements with sophisticated tools and machinery.
  • Utilizing manufacturing techniques and computer-aided design (cad) software to create replacement and alignment devices.
  • Utilizing a wide range of materials, such as plastic, wax, stainless steel, porcelain, and composites.

4 Steps to becoming a dental technician

To work as a dental technician, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • GED certification or a high school diploma.
  • Complete an approved dental laboratory technician program.
  • Obtain certification.
  • Optional: certification in a specific area of dentition and a bachelor's degree in dental technology.

1. Obtaining a GED or high school diploma

In order to enrol in a program for dental laboratory technicians, you will need a high school diploma or the GED equivalent. 

2. Completing the dental technician curriculum

These programs are provided by numerous community colleges, universities, hospitals, and specialized vocational institutions. The duration of these programs can differ. There are one-year postsecondary programs, two-year associate degree programs, and a few programs that offer four-year bachelor’s curricula. These programs cover a wide range of training for skills such as crafting crowns, bridges, and dentures, working with various materials such as metals, ceramics, and wax, manufacturing processes, as well as learning technologies like CAD scanning and design.

3. Obtaining a professional certification

Dental laboratory technicians can earn one of several certifications available. Obtaining these credentials can assist in finding work, developing career opportunities, and possibly increasing earning potential.

The CDT certification is offered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology to candidates who meet the basic requirements of education and experience and pass a series of exams. These specialty areas include:

  • Complete dentures
  • Partial dentures
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Implants
  • Orthodontics

A written overall exam, a written specialty exam, and a practical exam are required. All three assessments require four years to complete, and they can be taken in any sequence.

4. Developing and perfecting important skills

Dental technicians need to improve and develop certain competencies throughout their academic education and practical training. These consist of:

Paying attention to detail

In order to guarantee that a prosthesis fits the patient's mouth and is comfortable, dental technicians must pay close attention to detail and produce flawless work that fits perfectly.

Precision

The ability to manipulate small objects and specialized tools, as well as work with a variety of materials with effective precision is required. These skills can be gained and perfected through practical application, apprenticeship, or entry-level positions.

Creative thinking

Professionals in technical dentistry usually possess a certain amount of artistic competence and innovative thinking, coupled with a sound knowledge of science and technology, in order to design custom-made dental prostheses and corrective orthodontic appliances. Using a broad range of materials, these must be built and sculpted both artistically and accurately since each one is unique to the patient.

The average salary for dental technicians

The number of years of experience, level of education, and area of specialization of a dental technician are all variables that can affect their earning potential. In the USA, the average dental technician makes $41,900 a year. More experienced dental technicians earn up to $65,700 per year, while entry-level roles may start at $31,200.

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