A dental technician is a person trained to build prostheses for a dental patient. These devices include full or partial dentures, crowns and veneers as well as orthodontic appliances. Each device the technician builds is custom made for the patient it will be used on.
Dental technicians receive information from the patient’s dentist that includes molds, or impressions, of the patient’s mouth. The dentist also provides exact detail about what exactly he wants the technician to do. The technician is trained to take this information and, working with the molds, build the specific prostheses required by the dental patient.
Dental technicians perform most of their work with small hand tools. To do this type of work all day, they must be extremely detail-oriented and patient. Accuracy is a key component of the job description. If the appliance is not made properly, it must be sent back to the technician or even scrapped and a new one built.
Dental technicians receive their education in a variety of ways. While some technicians start work directly out of high school, and receive continuing education on the job, most attend a training program. Vocational schools, technical colleges and community colleges all typically offer either a two year degree or certificate program. Some four-year schools offer a baccalaureate degree in dental technology.
Dental technicians typically work in commercial laboratories. Most dentists send this type of work out, rather than completing it in the office. Each laboratory may have several dentists that they perform work for. Some dental laboratories make a full range of prostheses while others specialize in particular areas.
The fact that the work completed by a dental technician is done perhaps miles away from the patient underscores the importance of accuracy. The technician builds the prostheses based solely on notes from the dentist and an impression of the patient’s mouth. The appliance is shipped back to the dentist and is expected to fit with no further adjustments.
The career options for a dental technician are growing. As cosmetic surgery becomes more common, the demand for work completed by the technicians grows. Also, as the population continues to age, the need for dental prostheses continues to grow. The job market is expected to expand in dental laboratories, private dental offices and dental schools.