There are a number of tasks that are completed by a dental laboratory technician. In general, dental laboratories exist to both make and customize products for use in dental offices. A licensed dentist will create a prescription for a product which is sent to a laboratory for completion of the order. Some common products that are often ordered include the following dental laboratory pieces: bridges, crowns, implants, replacement teeth, retainers, braces, and dentures. While these products must pass various requirements, it is a common misconception that the laboratories are required to hold specialized certifications. The best laboratories will have certification and are designated by various labels of distinction. However, becoming certified is a voluntary process and not all laboratories choose to become certified as it can be quite costly. A CDL, or Certified Dental Laboratory, will have surpassed the minimum standards involving facility maintenance, infection control, personnel training and skill, tracking mechanisms, manufacturing processes, and business practices. DAMAS, or Dental Appliance Manufacturers Audit Scheme, is the next level of certification and the facility must be visited by an independent auditor to assess the dental laboratory equipment and practices. The highest certification that can be obtained by a dental laboratory is from the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO. This organization has activities in many different areas and develops their standards from over 160 countries. ISO 13485 is the specific certification that will deal with laboratories that produce dental products.
The majority of dental laboratory jobs are in the position of technician. These workers do not need to be certified as many laboratories provide training for the position at the facility. However, the better laboratories will only hire candidates that have successfully completed programs for work in a dental laboratory. There are associate degree programs that are offered by a wide range of institutions that can fulfill this requirement. In addition, an interested person can complete an apprenticeship program that lasts for five years. After the apprenticeship or associate degree has been finished, the person will need to pass an exam that is administered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. Common tasks that are associated with a technician job are repairing dentures, constructing denture frames, repairing prosthetics, building braces, and customizing products for individual use. The technician will rarely have contact with the customer as all of the orders will come directly from a dentist’s office and all information and plaster casts will be delivered from the office. The average starting salary for a beginning dental technician can range from $20000-$30000 depending on the area, level of previous training, and specific laboratory. With more and more laboratories being created, it is expected that demand for the position of dental technician will also rise. The increased awareness of dental health is behind this growth, with many people needing specialty products. Also, people in current times are keeping their teeth for longer, meaning a greater need for continued dental service. Anyone who is considering a new career may wish to look at the opportunities available in the profession of dental laboratory technician.