Dental technicians, also known as dental laboratory technicians, work in labs to create dental prosthetics and appliances, including complete and partial dentures, orthodontic appliances and porcelain veneers. These technicians need manual dexterity and some technical skills, and most dental technicians learn through on-the-job training. This career field is growing at a much slower-than-average rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
1) Read prescriptions or specifications, and examine models and impressions, in order to determine the design of dental products to be constructed.
2) Fabricate, alter, and repair dental devices such as dentures, crowns, bridges, inlays, and appliances for straightening teeth.
3) Test appliances for conformance to specifications and accuracy of occlusion, using articulators and micrometers.
4) Place tooth models on apparatus that mimics bite and movement of patient’s jaw to evaluate the functionality of the model.
5) Melt metals or mix plaster, porcelain, or acrylic pastes; and pour materials into molds or over frameworks in order to form dental prostheses or apparatus.
6) Prepare metal surfaces for bonding with porcelain to create artificial teeth, using small hand tools.
7) Remove excess metal or porcelain, and polish surfaces of prostheses or frameworks, using polishing machines.
8) Create a model of patient’s mouth by pouring plaster into a dental impression and allowing the plaster to set.
9) Load newly constructed teeth into porcelain furnaces in order to bake the porcelain onto the metal framework.
10) Build and shape wax teeth, using small hand instruments and information from observations or dentists’ specifications.
Job Duties and Responsibilities
Dental technicians fill orders for dental prosthetics, including dentures, bridges, crowns, veneers, and inlays. They create models of patients’ mouths from physical and sometimes computerized molds. Models are created with plaster, wax, porcelain, metal and hand tools. The model is then placed into a porcelain oven to seal it to the metal framework that holds it together. Dental technicians match the color and shape of the model to the patient’s teeth. Porcelain is added to the final product to give the model a finished look.
The profession of dental laboratory technology is:
An art because each restoration is unique to each patient. The restoration must imitate or improve the beauty and the function of the patient’s natural dentition and be in harmony with the rest of the system. The technician’s greatest challenge is to create a restoration that looks and feels completely natural in the patient’s mouth.
A science that is advancing rapidly. In order to fabricate the fixed or removable dental prostheses, dental technicians must have a keen knowledge and understanding of tooth anatomy, masticatory functions and the materials and processes utilized in the creation of such devices.
How to Become a Dental Technician
Most employers provide on-the-job training. You will learn how to do simple tasks like pouring plaster into an impression a dentist has made of a patient’s teeth. As you progress on your job, you will learn how to make crowns and dentures. If you choose, you can also get formal instruction at some community colleges and technical schools.