Put simply, a dental technician makes removable and permanent dental appliances and restorations. For the most part, the work with the prescription of a dentist, using dental moulds and other info to help provide the best treatment for the patient.
In most cases the work produced by a technician is used to restore esthetics and proper chewing function to patients who have missing teeth; such is the case with partial and full dentures. On the other hand, there are removable appliances that are used for preventive purposes such as orthodontic retainers and protective mouth guards.
Additionally, dental technicians fabricate permanent restorations, which would include crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays and implant restorations.
Dental technicians typically work in a private laboratory and receive their instructions from the dentist via courier or perhaps electronic transfer. As such, they have limited live contact with dentists or patients. But the dentist-technician relationship is key to success for all concerned.
What does a dental technician do?
The process of creating dental appliances (prosthesis) is as scientific as it is artistic. First, the dentist provides exact measurements and impressions (molds) of the tooth or area that needs to be restores. The dental technician then must fabricate a corresponding removable or permanent prosthetic that fits the exact parameters provided but that also satisfies the aesthetic demands of the patient and doctor.
Daily duties of a dental technician might include:
- Prepare and pour stone (plaster) dental models
- Fabricate and alter dental appliances (i.e. dentures, crowns, bridges)
- Measure tooth models and finished appliances to ensure accuracy
- Melt metals for use in fabricating appliances
- Mix porcelain for permanent prosthetics such as crowns and bridges
- Prepare metal surfaces for placement of porcelain
- Color, bake and glaze porcelain appliances
- Evaluate functionality of dental devices using devices that mimic occlusion
The work of a dental technician is highly technical, exact and repetitive. At the same time, there is an artistic nature to the work that is undeniable. It is a hands-on job in the sense that most of the daily tasks involve the skilled use of your hands as well as small hand tools and even magnification. In general, the work is intricate and finite and is best suited for patient, detail oriented people. While this type of work may not be for everyone, the reward of knowing that you are creating a work of art that will help another person have a healthier more satisfying life and a more attractive appearance helps to make it a very appealing career choice.
What education or training is required to become a dental technician?
While there are a few schools that offer courses in dental lab work, there is no specific education or certificate required to become a dental technician. Most have a high school diploma and receive their training on the job.
What is the salary of a dental technician?
Skill level and experience undoubtedly play the largest factor in the salary range of dental technicians. According to the most current statistics from the US bureau of labor statistics http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/dental-laboratory-technicians.htm (2010) the annual median pay was just over $35,000/year or nearly $17/hr.
Many dental technicians work for large corporate labs. However, many lab techs have decided to become small business owners and open their own lab. This not only increases the potential for greater income but can also result in greater personal fulfillment and job satisfaction.