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A dental technologist, also often called a dental technician, provides laboratory support to dentists, making various dental prostheses such as caps, bridges and retainers. She may work in a large laboratory that serves many dentists or work for a single dentist or group of dentists in a smaller office laboratory. A person in this position normally has minimal contact with patients.
Dental technologists who work in laboratories serving many dentists commonly specialize in one or two types of prosthesis construction. Those who work directly for dentists in private practice are normally skilled in building all types of prosthetic devices. Persons in this job occasionally assist dentists in making corrective brace adjustments as well.
This job typically entails the construction and repair of dental prostheses including veneers, crowns, caps, dentures, bridges and retainers used by orthodontic brace patients. A dental technologist regularly works with gold, stainless steel, plastic and porcelain in making these devices. She is generally expected to keep informed on new materials used in building dental prosthetics for patients who may be sensitive to traditional materials.
When a patient requires a prosthetic device, the dentist presents the prescription to the dental technologist. She normally reviews it, confirms the specifications and asks the dentist for further clarification if necessary. The dentist traditionally provides the technologist with a wax or plastic mold of the patient’s mouth to make sure the device is properly constructed for a comfortable and secure fit.
A wide range of tools and machines are used to build prosthetic dental devices. A dental technologist is normally required to be proficient in the use of dental furnaces, electric drills, presses and lathes. Precision cutting and shaping hand tools are typically used to carve and shape the final products.
Excellent attention to detail is generally required to excel in this job. Manual dexterity is normally a plus, as much of the work demands using small electric devices and hand tools. Steady hands are preferred to manipulate small components used in prosthetic construction. A good eye for color is desirable to ensure prosthetics match and look as natural as the original teeth of the patient.
A high school diploma or equivalent is normally required to be accepted into a dental technology training program. Many junior colleges and technical training institutes offer two-year programs in dental technology. Subsequent to the completion of formal training, an aspiring dental technologist typically works as an apprentice for a dentist for one to two years before becoming skilled enough to work independently.