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Dental Laboratory Technician

Career data updated last on 10/15/2014
Dental Laboratory Technician The dental laboratory technician takes on significant responsibility as a member of the dental health care team. Dental technicians make dental prostheses – replacements for natural teeth to help people who have lost some or all of their teeth to eat, chew, talk and smile in a manner that is similar to or better than the way they did before. The hallmarks of the qualified dental laboratory technician are skill in using small hand instruments, accuracy, artistic ability and attention to minute detail.
Salary $17.21/hr - $35,790 annually
Significant Points Job opportunities for dental laboratory technicians should be favorable, despite expected slower-than-average growth in the occupation through the year 2012.
Specializations Dental laboratory technicians can specialize in 1 of 5 areas:
  • Orthodontic appliances
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Complete dentures
  • Partial dentures
  • Ceramics
Work Environment Many dental laboratory technicians work in commercial dental laboratories. Experienced technicians may manage in laboratories, teach, take jobs in sales and marketing with dental suppliers, or even own their own laboratory. Salaried technicians usually work 40 hours a week, but self-employed technicians frequently work longer hours.

Dental laboratory technicians generally work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated areas. Technicians usually have their own workbenches, which can be equipped with Bunsen burners, grinding and polishing equipment, and hand instruments, such as wax spatulas and wax carvers. Some technicians have computer-aided milling equipment to assist them with creating artificial teeth. The work is extremely delicate and time consuming.

High School Prep A high school diploma or equivalent is required. Course work should include art, metal and wood shop, drafting, and sciences. Courses in management and business may help those wishing to operate their own laboratories.
Academic Requirements Most dental laboratory technicians learn their craft on the job. Becoming a fully trained technician requires an average of 3 to 4 years, depending upon the individual’s aptitude and ambition, but it may take a few years more to become an accomplished technician. Training in dental laboratory technology is available through community and junior colleges, vocational-technical institutes, and the U.S. Armed Forces. Formal training programs vary greatly both in length and in the level of skill they impart. Graduates of these programs receive either an associate degree or a certificate. There are also a few programs that offer a four-year baccalaureate program in dental technology.

In 2002, 25 programs in dental laboratory technology were approved (accredited) by the Commission on Dental Accreditation in conjunction with the American Dental Association (ADA). These programs provide classroom instruction in dental materials science, oral anatomy, fabrication procedures, ethics, and related subjects. In addition, each student is given supervised practical experience in a school or an associated dental laboratory. Accredited programs normally take 2 years to complete and lead to an associate degree. A few programs take about 4 years to complete and offer a bachelor’s degree in dental technology.

Graduates of 2-year training programs need additional hands-on experience to become fully qualified. Each dental laboratory owner operates in a different way, and classroom instruction does not necessarily expose students to techniques and procedures favored by individual laboratory owners. Students who have taken enough courses to learn the basics of the craft usually are considered good candidates for training, regardless of whether they have completed a formal program. Many employers will train someone without any classroom experience.

Certification, which is voluntary, can be obtained in five specialty areas: crowns and bridges, ceramics, partial dentures, complete dentures, and orthodontic appliances. Dental laboratory technicians can become become a Certified Dental Technician(CDT) by passing an examination which is administered by the National Board for Certification(NBC)in Dental Laboratory Technology.


There are currently no schools in Colorado that offer training or a degree. We suggest you look in the Organization listing, often the associated professional organization list schools where a degree or training can be found.

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