What is a Dental Technician, and how do I become one?

What is a Dental Technician, and how do I become one?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a dental technician? Do you think of a dental engineer who creates prosthetics or a technical assistant to a dentist? A dental technician job is one of the most rewarding dentistry positions, but many are unfamiliar with the work they do. 

Let’s look at some frequently asked questions and facts about dental technicians.

What is a dental technician?

Dental technicians or dental laboratory technicians construct, fit, and repair dental devices.

What’s the difference between a dental hygienist and a dental technician?

A dental hygienist typically works with dentists to see and treat patients. They are the first to meet and gather patient health information. 

A dental technician manufactures dental prosthetics, i.e., bridges, dentures, and dental devices, based on the dentist and dental hygienist’s patient impressions. Unlike dental hygienists, technicians do not examine, diagnose, or treat patients. 

Fun Fact 1: Did you know dental technicians are not patient-facing?

Although they assist dentists and hygienists in creating impressions for patients, they never interact with patients. Instead, technicians have to ensure that they properly construct devices that fit correctly into patients’ mouths and gums based on their dentist’s digital images.

What is the role and responsibility of a dental technician?

A dental technician’s roles and responsibilities vary depending from state to state, but here are some of their primary responsibilities: 

  • Restore natural teeth by fabricating crowns and bridges
  • Follow dentist prescription and construct prosthetics, make models of mouth and teeth from dental impressions 
  • Maintain dental laboratory documents, reports, and login records
  • Trim and pour denture models, polish and finish the appliance
  • Correct dental irregularities by manufacturing fixed or removable appliances

What type of education and certification do you need?

To become a dental technician, you must complete a high school diploma or GED. Although some employees offer on-the-job training, many employers and aspiring dental technicians choose to train and become certified by attending vocational, two-year colleges, or four-year universities. 

There are 24 commission-accredited dental laboratory technology programs in the United States. Here are some schools that offer dental lab technician training/programming:

To become a Certified Dental Technician (CDT), you must sit for the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology written and practical exam. The exams evaluate technical skills and knowledge. According to the American Dental Association, Certified Dental Technicians can specialize in one or more of six areas: implants, complete dentures, removable partial dentures, crown and bridge, ceramics, or orthodontics.

 How much do they make?

On average, dental technicians make $67,418 per year, with an hourly wage between $23 and $30, but this depends on education, certifications, location, experience, and additional skills.

Fact 2: Dental Technicians are in high demand

They are known to perform their duties to the highest level of patient care. They are excellent communicators as the population continues to age, requiring orthotic devices, i.e., orthopedic footwear and dentures. According to BLS, the demand for dental lab technicians is expected to grow by 9%, making technicians in higher demand than most in the dental industry.  

Note: Salaries are subject to change due to demand/ COVID restriction, etc

Where do they typically work?

A dental technician does not work in a dental practice. Instead, they typically work in small laboratories. Some technicians work for large companies, but most technicians work in small laboratories. 

Fun Fact 3: Dental Technicians typically work full time.

Most dental technicians work full-time to provide adequate oral health needs to dentists and patients. A dental technician role is excellent for individuals interested in working behind the scenes to develop devices and improve patient oral health. 

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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