A dental lab technician, sometimes called a dental lab tech, is an individual who builds and repairs dental prosthetics. They make crowns, false teeth or dentures, bridges and other dental prosthetic devices. These types of technicians get their work orders from dentists and fill the order according to the instructions the dentist sends. Unlike a dental hygienist, a dental lab technician does not generally work directly with patients, unless a visual inspection is needed to complete a work order. Most technicians spend their days working completely in a laboratory.
Usually, a high school diploma is the most typical level of education needed to become a dental lab technician. According to where the technician works, these requirements can become more advanced. For a better chance at career advancement, some individuals may pursue an associate or bachelor's degree in a field pertaining to dental technology. After completing an accredited program, a dental lab technician may become certified by taking a certification examination accredited by the National Association of Dental Laboratories. After completing a required or voluntary amount of secondary education, most technicians will receive some on-the-job training as well.
Dental lab technician duties can vary. In most cases, a dental lab tech will do a variety of things per day. He or she may pour plaster to make mouth impressions to be used in several different ways. The technician may make new sets of dentures and repair old sets, as needed. This may include adding missing teeth to dentures or replacing damaged dentures with new ones. In addition, some technicians spend their days making veneers, crowns, bridges and other types of dental moldings.
Part of being a dental lab technician means learning to work with different substances and equipment. Most work with different kinds of presses, high heat furnaces, polishing equipment and drills. For this reason, a great deal of training time may be geared toward learning how to use the different machines. Technicians usually work with a variety of substances as well. Some of the most common substances include wax, plastic, plaster, metals, golds and porcelain.
Dental lab tech jobs may be required in a private dental practice. Some dentists hire in-house lab technicians to work at their establishments. Many technicians may opt to work at a commercial dental laboratory. Especially large commercial laboratories may employee hundreds of technicians at a time.
After completing an educational and or training program, there are some skills that may make being a dental lab technician easier. In general, a technician will benefit from being detail-oriented and liking to work with his or her hands. Other skills may include a preference to working independently and possessing good color sense. A good color sense will be important when making dental prosthetics of a natural looking color.