Dental laboratory technicians are skilled craftspeople who work according to the written prescriptions of dentists to make and repair dental appliances such as dentures, inlays, bridges, crowns, and braces. Technicians create appliances using wax, plasters, plastics, ceramics and metals, using models made from impressions taken by a dentist of a patient's mouth or teeth. There are more than 60,000 active dental laboratory technicians in the U.S. today.
While a college level education is strongly encouraged for those who wish to become dental laboratory technicians, careers can begin without college level courses through on-the-job-training in dental laboratories or dental offices. A two-year associate degree in dental laboratory technology is highly recommended. Useful coursework includes chemistry, mechanical drawing, industrial arts, art and ceramics.
Individuals who do best as dental laboratory technicians combine the precision, patience, and dexterity of a skilled craftsperson with a generous amount of artistic talent. They must be able to carry out written and sometimes verbal instructions exactly, because each dental fixture has to be constructed according to very specific designs provided by the dentist. Good eyesight and color discrimination and the ability to do delicate work with one's fingers are also important.
Many dental technicians learn their craft on the job. Others prepare for their career by attending a formal training program that leads to an associate degree in applied science. A typical two-year curriculum might include courses in denture construction, processing and repairing dentures; tooth construction, waxing and casting inlays, and crowns. Currently, there is one dental technology program in Illinois.
The salary of a dental technician varies, depending upon the responsibilities associated with the specific position and the geographic location of employment. There is evidence that dental technicians who have completed a formal training program will advance more rapidly in the field, resulting in higher lifetime earnings. Many dental technicians receive benefits packages from their employers that may include health and disability insurance coverage, reimbursement for continuing education programs, paid vacations and holidays.
The employment outlook for dental technicians is optimistic due to an increased level of public awareness of dental health and its impact on appearance. The number of people covered by dental insurance has increased, and people in older age groups, who utilize a large share of dental appliances, have become a greater percentage of the population. These factors all indicate a favorable future for dental laboratory technicians. The American Dental Association provides a genera fact sheet and career information about dental laboratory technology. You can access this information at their website by clicking here: http://www.ada.org/