Dental Technicians

Job Description

Dental Technician
••• stylephotographs / 123RF

Dental technicians manufacture dental prosthetics including bridges, crowns, and dentures. They construct these devices based on impressions dentists and dental hygienists take of patients teeth. Dental technicians also follow dentists' written and oral instructions. They have no direct contact with patients themselves.

Areas of specialization include orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, or ceramics.

Dental technicians are also called dental laboratory technicians.

Quick Facts

  • Dental technicians earned a median annual salary of $37,680 (2016).
  • 38,100 people work in this occupation (2016).
  • They typically work full time.
  • Most dental technicians work in small laboratories but some work in laboratories that employ hundreds of technicians.
  • This occupation has an excellent job outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment to grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. The agency classifies it as a "bright outlook" occupation.

A Day in a Dental Technician's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for dental technician positions found on Indeed.com:

  • "Trim and pour denture models"
  • "Fabricate porcelain veneers for crowns, fixed dental prostheses, implant restorations, and all-ceramic crowns using ceramo-metal techniques"
  • "Build and finish porcelain fused to metal restorations"
  • "Finish full and partial dentures with and without implants"
  • "Fabricate accurate models from doctor's impressions"
  • "Maintain dental laboratory records and prepare reports on laboratory activities"

How to Become a Dental Technician

Most employers provide on-the-job training. You will learn how to do simple tasks like pouring plaster into an impression a dentist has made of a patient's teeth.

As you progress on your job, you will learn how to make crowns and dentures. If you choose, you can also get formal instruction at some community colleges and technical schools.

You may want to become certified, but it is voluntary to do so. Certification may make you a more desirable job candidate. The National Board for Certification, an independent board established by the National Association of Dental Laboratories, offers the CDT credential.  To earn this certification, you will have to take written and practical exams that demonstrate your knowledge and skills in your chosen specialty.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?

Dental technicians need these soft skills or personal qualities:

  • Manual Dexterity: As a dental technician, you will have to work with your hands and keep them steady for long periods of time.
  • Attention to Detail: You must follow dentist's prescriptions and work orders exactly.
  • Time Management Skills: It is essential to complete work in a timely fashion.
  • Critical Thinking Skills: When you encounter a problem, before you can solve it, you will have to weigh all the possible solutions and choose the best one.
  • Listening Skills: The ability to understand what others are telling you is essential.
  • Reading Comprehension: You must be able to understand written documentation as well as work orders and prescriptions from dentists.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Some projects will require working on a team with other technicians.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

  • "Strong communication, organization skills, and customer follow up"
  • "Ability to conduct physical work, frequently lift 15 lbs and occasionally up to 50 lbs"
  • "Outstanding telephone and customer service etiquette skills"
  • "Naturally persuasive with some leadership potential mixed in"
  • "Ability to travel"
  • "Highly motivated, dependable, individual with a strong work ethic"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Is a career as a dental technician right for you? Your interestspersonality type, and work-related values all play a role in your decision.

Individuals who have the following traits, are best suited for this occupation:

Related Occupations

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Performs tasks to manufacture a variety of products

$30,610H.S. or equivalency diploma
Ophthalmic Laboratory TechnicianMakes eyeglasses and contact lenses$30,640H.S. or equivalency diploma
WelderJoins or cuts metal parts$39,390H.S. or equivalency diploma with technical and on-the-job training

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited April 5, 2018).