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A dental technician trainee does the same basic work as a full dental technician. The only difference is that, while in training, the dental technician trainee is not able to complete all the tasks for which the full dental technician is qualified. The most elementary dental technician skills are learned first, with the trainee progressing through increasingly difficult duties as he learns.
Very generally, the goal of a dental technician trainee is to offer assistance to the full dental technician, as well as the dentist under which both the trainee and technician serve. The focus of the assistance is in the development of dental prosthetics, such as bridges or dentures. Dental technician trainees should not be confused with dental hygienists, who are involved with hands-on patient care such as cleaning.
One of the first things a dental technician trainee usually has to do is get familiar with any computer systems, machines, or organizational and other policies of the dental office. This is rudimentary because of the need for good record-keeping and efficiency, and because specific technologies help technicians to form the prosthetics desired. This part of training normally does not last very long, and usually handbooks and manuals provide written guidance. The full dental technician may ask the dental technician trainee to provide a little more help in keeping the work area clean, as the trainee's knowledge of specific dental procedures is limited.
From there, the dental technician trainee moves on to very basic tasks such as pouring plaster into an impression. Although most of a dental technician's work is in a back-office laboratory rather than the patient treatment area, the full dental technician and dentist teach the dental technician trainee how to evaluate the patient's prosthetic needs through non-invasive visual inspection. This skill is important because the trainee can take what he sees and apply it to the construction of the prosthetic for a better fit. The technician trainee also often learns how to assist the dentist in making molds.
When the dental technician is comfortable with the basic skills the trainee has, the trainee begins using the equipment available to perform more advanced services such as carving and grinding. Polishing is another common duty. These skills require more finesse, because they allow for fine-tuning of the prosthetics' look and physical feel.
Some dental technician trainees go through formal education programs, which may result in a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree. These programs are not required, as it is still standard for people to learn on the job, but they can provide a significant hiring edge. People who go through formal programs may not receive as much on-the-job training when hired. Some people take classes and get on-the-job training at the same time. Those who want to learn dental technician skills via classes should check that the courses or programs are approved by major organizations such as the American Dental Association.