If you want to one day become a dentist, or serve your country learning a useful civilian work skill in the dental care community, consider training to become a dental laboratory specialist. The Air Force specifically has the Air Force Specialty Code 4Y0X2 that teaches airmen complex dental care procedures by providing lab work to build custom dental prostheses (false teeth), implants, crowns, mouth guards, retainers and more.
If the Air Force dentist or clinic puts it into your mouth, it's likely it was personally made to custom fit you by someone in the Air Force Dental Lab Tech world. If you like to work in small groups or alone on individual projects, the Dental Lab Tech maybe perfect for you and technicians will rarely interact with patients. The details are given to you by the dentist and you create the product in the lab without even seeing a patient (most likely). Consider the job part science and part arts and crafts. So, you need to be good with molding objects but also using computers to draw and design the objects for the dentist.
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Qualifications / Training
The Dental Laboratory Specialist / Technician has a good civilian job market after obtaining experience in the military. If you have fine motor skills, neat and meticulous with projects, or have an artistic eye, this may be the career field for you. To qualify for this Air Force Specialty Code (Air Force job), you need to be able to do the following:
ASVAB - G 66
Color vision required
Obtain a Security Clearance of level - Secret
CCAF Earned Dental Laboratory Technology
Dental Tech school is approximately 6 months at Joint Base Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. You will attend with other branches of service as well as have instructors from the Army, Air Force, and Navy.
The following training is mandatory for award of the AFSC indicated:
4Y032. Completion of a basic dental laboratory course.
4Y072. Completion of the advanced dental laboratory course.
4Y052. Qualification in and possession of AFSC 4Y032. Also, experience fabricating prosthodontic restorations including fixed gold and porcelain fused to metal, and denture and orthodontic appliance fabrications.
4Y072. Qualification in and possession of AFSC 4Y052. Also, experience performing and supervising functions such as fabricating and repairing dental prostheses and appliances.
Other. The following are mandatory for entry into this specialty:
Prior qualification in and possession of AFSC 4Y051 or 4Y071.
Physical Profile: 212221
The Air Force Dental Lab Techs will work in two locations, Area Dental Labs (ADLs), or at base dental clinics. ADLs are large groups of lab techs that create products for large areas and perhaps dozens of dental clinics in the region as needed. Making all the products by hand for the entire Air Force can cause delays and backflow and often the ADLs will pick up the slack from overburdened base dental clinics.
The work hours in the Air Force Dental Clinic are good typically (0700-1600, with 1 hour lunch break). PT during those hours are also available three times a week, however, sometimes if the workload increases and deadlines are not being met, you are in the military, so expect to stay late to finish cases if you get behind on work.
It will be doubtful a dental technician will deploy. You can be stationed overseas around the world, but there is not mission for a dental technician in a deployed status. However, there maybe opportunities for humanitarian missions in other countries for short deployments.
Duties and Responsibilities:
The Dental Lab Tech performs procedures to fabricate and repair complete dental prostheses, fixed and removable partial dental prostheses, and individual crowns, inlays, pontics, splints, stabilizers, and space maintainers. They also perform the following:
- Uses precious and non-precious metals, acrylic resins, and porcelain as basic materials.
- Supervises dental laboratory administration tasks and equipment.
- Maintains dental laboratory records.
- Prepares reports on laboratory activities.
- Requisitions, stores, and issues supplies.
- Inspects equipment and performs minor maintenance.
- Reports defective equipment or utilities for corrective action.
- Accounts for precious metals expended.
- Inspects and evaluates administrative and technical procedures.
- Furnishes deficiency reports and outstanding accomplishments to Dental Squadron Commander.
- Interprets inspection findings and recommends corrective action.
- Consults and coordinates with dental surgeon for improving procedures. Institutes corrective measures, and maintains follow-up action to ensure adequacy and compliance.
Knowledge. Knowledge is mandatory of oral anatomy and physiology; inorganic chemistry; metallurgy fundamentals; dental laboratory technology; dental material physical and chemical properties; dental laboratory equipment and maintenance; sterile techniques; and administration.
Civilian Marketability – The skills in the dental lab are highly transferable, but you will actually make more money in the Air Force for at least your first 6-8 years in the job. Your experience will transfer into higher paying jobs on the spectrum as it can range from $20-60k depending upon your abilities and talent and continued education. As you advance, consider learning how to make dentures as that can boost your marketability in the civilian sector.
When the military cannot produce enough of these jobs, they will hire DoD civilians to assist with GS positions. Most of these positions are actually military retired dental technicians who get a pension from the military and a salary from the Department of Defense as a GS Civilian Dental Tech.