Dental Laboratory Technician Career Information

The Art and Science of Dental Technology

Dental laboratory technology is the art and science of manufacturing corrective devices and replacements for natural teeth.

Restorative (or prosthetic) dentistry is when we lose our teeth, through an accident or illness, and they need to maintain normal functions.  Orthodontic treatment is when teeth must be moved or stabilized to optimize functions or prevent painful dysfunction.  The patient’s dentist will plan the treatment and place the restoration or corrective device in the patient’s mouth.

Cosmetic Dentistry is the comprehensive oral care that combines art and science to optimally improve dental health, aesthetics and function.  Common cosmetic dental treatment options include: whitening, contouring, bonding, dental bridges, veneers and gum lifts.

But there is another skilled professional behind the scene, working on the written order or prescription of the dentist, who manufactures the restoration or device.  This is the dental laboratory technician.

Each restoration the technician makes will be different and each must simulate the function of the natural teeth.  But, beyond that, the technician’s great challenge is to capture and recreate both the perfection and the imperfection of natural teeth.

History of the Dental Laboratory

As the art and science of dentistry continued to develop, special processes and skills were developed in manufacturing prosthetic devices.  Since these processes and skills were in demand by other dentists, the practice of sending out laboratory work to those possessing the processes began.

Dr. W. H. Stowe opened the first dental laboratory in Boston in 1887.  The establishment of the commercial dental laboratory led quickly to the training of apprentices and thus the dental laboratory technician

The Necessary Skills

Good candidates for careers in dental technology usually possess good eye-hand coordination and color perception, dexterity in using small instruments, the patience to attend to minute detail and an interest in learning the underlying material science. Additional information about the knowledge, skills and abilities required by dental technicians can be located on O*Net Online

The Work Setting

Most dental technicians are employed in commercial dental laboratories. Commercial dental laboratories are often very small, having only two or three employees. There are also, however, some very large labs with over 100 employees. Some private dental offices have their own laboratory.

Military services still train and employ a number of dental technicians. Schools teaching dental technology offer some teaching positions for experienced technicians.

CAD/CAM Dentistry, (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in Dentistry), is an area of Dentistry utilizing CAD/CAM technologies to produce dental restorations.

 

Getting Started

Many dental laboratories – larger ones in particular – offer positions for trainees.  Persons hired at the entry level may rapidly progress to being productive employees, performing a limited range of laboratory procedures.

Another route to a career in dental laboratory technology is by completing one of the two-year or  four-year degrees in dental technology offered through educational programs.  Download the current list of U.S. schools offering dental laboratory technology programs: U.S. Dental Lab Schools

These courses provide students with broad-based theory and an introduction to laboratory procedures across the various dental technology specialties.

A graduate may expect to be hired at a salary not significantly higher than that of a paid trainee, but should be able to progress far more rapidly to a professional level.

Earnings

Because of a wide variety of employment settings, and the wide possible range of skill levels, it is difficult to establish meaningful averages for earnings.

Based on advertised salaries, a skilled technician employed in a quality-oriented laboratory presently might expect earnings in the $25 - $50,000 range. View the table below to for some statistics gathered from the 2015 NADL Cost of Doing Business Survey. NADL Members can access the entire survey in the NADL Member Resource Library.

 

2015 Estimated Dental Technician Salary

 

 

Least Experienced

Most Experienced

Number of Employees

Small Lab (1-9)

Medium Lab (10-25)

Large Lab (>25)

Small Lab (1-9)

Medium Lab (10-25)

Large Lab (>25)

Average Hourly Wage

$14.65

$13.03

$11.57

$21.87

$25.00

$26.15

Average Annual Wage

$33,429

$37,429

$31,714

$67,746

$73,661

$87,500

 

The Professional Dental Technician

Most states set no minimum qualifications for persons to be employed as dental technicians.  However, the industry encourages standards for the benefit of the dental patient. To view a listing of current state regulations and the NADL's efforts to inform the dentist and the patient about the importance of industry standards, please visit the NADL What's in Your Mouth Microsite.

New materials, techniques and equipment are regularly introduced to dental technology and technicians must continue their education through training courses and seminars.

Technicians who have at least five years of education and/or experience in dental technology are encouraged to distinguish themselves by taking the examinations to be Certified Dental Technicians (CDTs) in different areas.  Since certification is voluntary in most states, it represents not only compliance with established standards, but also a personal commitment to quality and professionalism.


For more information on the Certified Dental Technicians certification, please contact the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology, Inc.
Phone: (800) 684-5310
Fax: (850) 222-0053
Email: certification@nbccert.org
www.nbccert.org

The Dental Technology Industry - Industry Statistics

NADL works to inform members of the "state of the industry" in an effort to keep them informed of changes that may impact their businesses.  NADL also regularly conducts surveys, that are provided complimentary to NADL members in the NADL Member Resource Library.  Below is an excerpt of the data that NADL has compiled from the Cost of Doing Business Survey as well as the Bureau of Labor statistics relative to the number of dental laboratories and number of dental technicians.

Total Industry 2015

Average Gross Revenue by Lab Size

Small Labs (1 - 9 employees) - $351,380

Medium Labs (10 - 25 employees) - $1,610,472

Large Labs (25 + employees) - $6,425,658

# of Labs

6,584 (partial through 2nd Q 2015) NOTE: In addition to the number of dental laboratories with a payroll indicated here, there are currently 735 single person laboratories.

# of Dental Technicians (U.S.)

44,569 (partial through 2nd Q 2015)



The Future of Dental Laboratory Technology *

Dentistry and dental laboratory technology have been, are and will continue to be ever-changing interrelated fields of endeavor. Both health and aesthetics will continue to be driving forces in the continuing development of dentistry.

As we move onward further into the 21st century, we see a period of true promise and steady growth in dentistry and dental laboratory sales. There will be no decline in the demand for dental services, rather the demand will grow.

The future of the entire dental arena is very promising.

*Taken from the Golden Quarter Century by Peter Stein, BS, MB, PA.

 

If you would like additional information about becoming a dental laboratory technician, please contact:

NADL
325 John Knox Rd, Ste L103
Tallahassee, FL 32303
Phone: (800) 950-1150
Fax: (850) 222-0053
Email: nadl@nadl.org

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