Dental laboratory technicians make and repair orthodontic devices such as dentures, bridges, crowns and braces. They use precision instruments and equipment, such as small hand drills, to create practical and esthetically pleasing dental replacements. Using their artistic abilities, lab techs create these dental devices using materials such as gold, silver, porcelain, plastics and stainless steel.
Technicians examine the model, note the size and shape of the adjacent teeth, as well as gaps within the gum line. Based upon these observations and the dentist's specifications, technicians build and shape a wax tooth or teeth model, using small hand instruments called wax spatulas and wax carvers. They use this wax model to cast the metal framework for the prosthetic device.
In some laboratories, technicians perform all stages of the work, and in other labs, each technician specializes in only a few. Dental lab technicians can specialize in five areas: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, or ceramics. For example, technicians who make porcelain and acrylic restorations are often called dental ceramists.
As each patient's teeth and needs are different, so too are the duties of a dental lab technician. A typical day could involve creating: full dentures for patients missing all of their teeth; removable partial dentures or fixed bridges for patients who are missing only one or a few teeth; crowns, or caps for teeth that are designed to restore their original size and shape; veneers that enhance the esthetics and function of the patient; or orthodontic appliances and splints to help straighten and protect teeth.
Education and training requirementsDental lab technicians typically receive education and training through a two-year program at a community college, vocational school, technical college, university or dental school. Graduates of these programs receive either an associate degree or a certificate. Some programs offer a four-year baccalaureate program in dental technology.
In most cases, a high school diploma or equivalent is required to apply to an accredited dental lab technology program.
Dental laboratory technicians become certified by passing an exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology, which evaluates technical skills and knowledge. Certified technicians usually specialize in one or more of five areas: complete dentures, removable partial dentures, crown and bridge, ceramics or orthodontics.
Look into itFor more information on careers in dental laboratory technology, check out these resources:
National Association of Dental Laboratories www.nadl.org
American Dental Association www.ada.org
National Board for Certification in Dental Technology www.nbccert.org