Dentistry is a vast field. If you want to pursue a career in it, you do not need to graduate from a school of dentistry; there are other pathways you could take. In addition to dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental technicians form an integral part of the profession.
What Do Dental Technicians Do?
Dental technicians use their technical skills, dexterity, and eye for detail to create dentures, bridges, crowns, and other dental appliances by using molds or impressions of a patient's teeth. They work with dentists, but do not interact with patients. Dental technicians work with polishers, files, and other small hand tools. They use porcelain, plastic, and wax to make prosthetic appliances. If a dental technician is hired by a small laboratory, then he/she may do both waxing and polishing. However in large laboratories, he/she could be doing waxing or polishing. Dental technicians may also be at liberty to specialize in a particular field like ceramics, implants, complete dentures, partial dentures, crowns and bridges, and orthodontic appliances. Those who specialize in making acrylic and porcelain bridges and veneers are called dental ceramists.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that dental technicians earned a median yearly salary of $36,090 in May 2012. Potential dental technicians need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to get hired, and they usually learn their trade on the job. In the beginning, they usually work in the laboratory as helpers to dental technicians. For example, they might be asked to pour plaster into an impression. Over a period of time, as they become more experienced, they may be tasked with making porcelain bridges and crowns. There is no specific time period of their training though.
Dental Technician Schools
Individuals who would like to enroll in a more formal training program could take dental technician courses after high school. These courses are available in community colleges, vocational, and technical schools. Most programs may take anywhere from 2 to 4 years to complete, but this may depend on the student's enrollment status and academic progress. Dental technician students may take the following courses or similar types of courses:
Online Dental Technician Schools
With the advent of online education and its ever increasing popularity, dental technician courses are now being offered by accredited online universities as well. These may suit those who are either interested in the profession or are working as helpers in dental laboratories. Since course material is available online, students are able to download lectures, course material, complete assignments, and take exams from any location that has an internet connection. Students with full-time jobs may benefit from this type of program. For hands-on laboratory experience, online students could be asked to attend on-campus courses. Becoming a dental technician is one of the ways of helping people eat better, look better, and possibly feel better about themselves.