Dental Laboratory Technician

Bridge Technician, Ceramist, Crown and Bridge Dental Lab Technician, Crown and Bridge Technician   More Names
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Construct, alter and repair dental devices including crowns, bridges, dentures, implants and other dental devises. Fill prescriptions for dentists using either traditional or digital impressions or molds of a patient's teeth.

Dental laboratory technicians work for dentists custom-making the various dental devices and appliances needed to correct, replace, or restore patients' teeth. They precisely cast the needed crowns, bridges, dentures, and implants and other devises based on impressions, molds and models. While they work closely with dentists, they have limited contact with patients.

The majority of dental laboratory technicians work in dental laboratories that are part of overall dental devise manufacturing businesses, with many of the rest working in larger dentist offices and dental clinics. Most dental laboratories are part of small businesses that employ only a few dental laboratory technicians. Some large dental laboratories, however, may have several hundred total employees including scores of dental laboratory technicians. About one in ten dental laboratory technicians are self-employed.

Dental laboratory technicians are an essential part of modern dentistry because they make the precision dental devices and appliances required by so many children and adult dental patients. They must be able to accurately read and understand dentists' prescriptions and instructions concerning the design of dental products to be constructed. They may need to use a mold of a patient's mouth to create a model out of plaster or other material that they then use to make the required denture, crown, bridge, inlay, or other appliance.

When fabricating a replacement tooth, dental laboratory technicians cast and form the required metal framework, using small hand-held tools to prepare the metal to bond with the porcelain that will be overlaid next. They apply this porcelain in layers to re-create the precise shape and color of the tooth being replaced. When ready, they put the replacement tooth in a small porcelain furnace to bake and bond the porcelain onto the metal framework. After this is finished, they complete final grinding and polishing to produce a finished and sealed product that is an exact replacement for the lost tooth.

Dental laboratory technicians work with small hand tools such as hand-pieces, files and polishers. They work with many different materials in making prosthetic devices, including wax, plastic, dental alloys, zirconia and porcelain. Increasingly technicians work with computer-aided design software programs to assist in designing devices. They also work with digital scanners and milling units to manufacturer the substructure of a dental device.

In smaller laboratories, dental laboratory technicians perform all stages of the work. In larger laboratories, they may work on just one step of the process, such as model and die building, waxing, or polishing. Dental laboratory technicians may specialize in one of six areas: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants or ceramics. They may be different job titles depending on their area of specialty. For example, technicians who make porcelain and acrylic restorations, such as veneers or bridges, are known as dental ceramists.

Dental laboratory technicians need to have good vision, arm and hand steadiness as well as the ability to make precise, coordinated finger movements to grasp, place, and assemble very small objects. They must be very detail oriented and have the ability to notice slight color and shape differences to create realistic prosthetics for a patient's teeth. They also must be able to work well with their hands, using precise laboratory instruments in small work areas.

Dental laboratory technicians need to understand how to operate complex machinery, and since some procedures will be computer-based, this includes knowing how to operate and change the software programs that run this machinery. Furthermore, they need to be good communicators who can accurately listen and read instructions, and speak and write clearly.

Dental laboratory technician is an entry-level occupation that is well-suited to individuals who enjoy custom-making small devices and appliances in a work-bench, laboratory setting. With experience and additional training, an individual may become a supervisor or manager, or perhaps open their own dental appliance manufacturing business. Alternatively, some may become involved in postsecondary training of dental laboratory technicians.

Credentials Needed: States do not have any licensure or registration requirements for dental laboratory technicians. However, there are several states that do require the businesses that commercially manufacture dental equipment and employ dental laboratory technicians to employ at least one Certified Dental Technician in order to operate.

The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBCDLT) is an independent board founded by the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) to certify dental laboratories and technicians. Dental laboratory technicians may obtain the voluntary Certified Dental Technician (CDT) designation from the NBCDLT by passing three exams - written comprehensive, specialty practical, and specialty written - over a four year period - and also meeting education and experience prerequisites. These prerequisites can be met either by having at least 5 years of on-the-job training or experience in dental technology, or by graduating from an accredited dental laboratory technician program. The CDT certification can be obtained in six specialty areas: crowns and bridges, ceramics, partial dentures, complete dentures, implants and orthodontic appliances.

Some Key Things to Remember: Dental laboratory technicians construct, alter, and repair dental devices including crowns, bridges, dentures, implants, and other dental devices. They are an essential part of modern dentistry because they make the precision dental devices and appliances required by so many children and adult dental patients. Employers prefer to hire those with at least a high school diploma or GED certificate, with additional post-secondary training highly desired. Most dental laboratory technicians learn their tasks and duties through on-the-job training.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
11% - Average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $28,760 - $49,460    Hourly: $14 - $24
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

Arm-Hand Steadiness: Able to keep the hand and arm steady while making an arm movement or while holding the arm and hand in one position. Problem Sensitivity: Able to tell when something is wrong or likely to go wrong. This doesn't involve solving the problem, just recognizing that there is a problem. Near Vision: Able to see details of objects at a close range (within a few feet of the observer). Information Ordering: Able to correctly follow rules for arranging things or actions in a certain order, including numbers, words, pictures, procedures, and logical operations. Oral Comprehension: Able to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

Legal Requirements
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

High School or GED (HS)
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Percent Job Growth:

11% - Average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $28,760 - $49,460

Hourly: $14 - $24