Dental Lab Technician

A dental lab technician works in a dental laboratory, performing various tasks that support the work of a dentist, such as fashioning dental fittings, including wax, porcelain and metal dental appliances.

Job Description

As a dental lab technician you will be required to perform a number of tasks in the laboratory. These include understanding a prescription to ascertain what type of dental fitting is required, then accordingly making, modifying or repairing the fitting, which could be a denture, crown, set orthodontic braces, artificial tooth, bridge etc. Once the fitting has been made you will have to test it for appropriateness on equipment that imitates the patient's jaw and mouth movements. To do this you will have to work with a variety of equipment and substances, such as wax, porcelain, heating furnaces, acrylic resins, plaster, electric drills, polishing equipment etc.

Education and Training

In most cases a high school diploma will suffice, though it does help if you have taken subjects such as chemistry, ceramics and metal works. Most of the learning is done on the job, usually as an apprentice, beginning with basic work and working your way up to more difficult and skilled tasks. Completion of a formal training course always helps, as does certification backed by the National Association of Dental Laboratories.

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Skill Requirements

Since you will be required to fashion precise fittings, you will have to be dextrous with your hands, as well as be able to work with precision equipment. Good eyesight, a keen attention to detail and perfectionist attitude will help, in order to work or rework until the design requirements are fulfilled. Problem solving skills are also essential, in order to ascertain why a fixture is not working properly and to rectify the problem. Good comprehension and listening skills are also beneficial, in order to understand exactly what the dentist requires.

Workplace Conditions

In general, you are most likely to be working in a large city, as this is usually where dental laboratories are found. Most laboratories do not have a large workforce - 50 is considered to be a large number. Though deadlines must be met, working conditions are not stressful, and you will most probably be working on your own on specific projects and not in a team. The only stress arises from having to ensure a precise completion of the task at hand. Some dental lab technicians work independently and outsource their services. This job generally does not require much interaction with the public and workplaces are usually extremely hygienic and well lit.

Future Outlook

Dental lab technicians are expected to see a fairly good growth - around 14% - over the next 10 years. Individuals who have a lot of experience and are highly qualified have stand a better chance of advanced employment opportunities. Certifications such as the Certified Dental Technician in a particular area such as ceramics or partial dentures can bring a better job opportunity because of the specialisation. Some technicians move on to supervisory positions or move into the selling and marketing of dental appliances.