What is a Dental Technician?

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Many dental careers involve treating patients. But a dental technician is a bit different. Although they still help people with dental issues, they do it behind the scenes.

Responsibilities of a Dental Technician

Dental technicians make restorative dental appliances under a dentist’s prescription. For example, dentists use prosthetic teeth, such as bridges and implants to replace missing teeth.

The way it works is after a dentist takes measurements and provides details, the dental technician is responsible for designing and making the replacement teeth. The technician collaborates with the dentist to make sure they understand which materials to use and the specifics of the design.

One unique thing about being a dental tech is that the field combines, science, technology, and art. For example, technicians must have a thorough understating of tooth anatomy and the materials involved in making restorative devices. They must also utilize technology including computer-aided designs during their work. But that’s not all. Creating replacement teeth that look and feel natural and are unique for each patient requires a touch of artistry and creativity.

Education, Training and Skills Needed

The exact career path to becoming a dental technician may vary. For example, associate degree and certificate programs for dental lab technicians are available at colleges and technical schools. There are also a few bachelor degree programs in the United States. The American Dental Association has a list of accredited programs on their website.

After graduating from an accredited program, students can opt to take a certification exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. Although certification is not mandatory for employment, it can give you the edge in getting a job. Salaries may also be higher for people who are certified.

Some dental technicians specialize in making certain types of devices, such as orthodontics, dentures or implants. While others are involved in making a variety of restorative devices.

Although many technicians receive formal training, some techs are trained on the job and work their way up. For instance, a tech may start out assisting an experienced technician in making a device and gradually take on more responsibility and complex duties.

Dental technicians need a variety of skills including good manual dexterity, math skills, and computer knowledge. Since technicians also often work without a lot of supervision, it’s helpful to be someone who works well independently.

If you’re looking for career options for dentistry students that do not involve working directly with patients, but still play a role in helping people, becoming a dental technician may be a good choice. Although dental technicians do not directly see and treat patients, their work is highly valuable. By making restorative devices to replace teeth, dental techs play a vital role in improving not only a patient’s dental health but their confidence and overall well-being.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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