Dental Lab Technician Job Profile

Dental lab technicians create the major dental work which is used to replace teeth, like crowns, bridges, and other structures. Their work relates directly to a lot of the major dental treatments and can be extremely complex. This can be very hard, demanding work. There are no standard sized mouths or dental situations, and each item has to be done individually.

The work environment

You need to be qualified and proficient to even begin work as a dental lab technician. The basic tasks are technically demanding. A dental lab technician works with molds taken from patients and specifications provided by dentists. These specifications can include materials and detailed requirements for particular issues in the prosthesis. Some prostheses can be quite irregular, demanding very accurate construction to meet the patient's needs.

This is detailed, exacting work, with some ramifications for patients and dentists if these prostheses aren't properly constructed. The old horror stories about "ill fitting dentures" weren't just stories. There are real liabilities for defective prosthetic work, not least of which to the dental lab technician responsible.

The work scales up in degrees of complexity, from comparatively simple processes like crowns, (which are themselves sometimes complex), to large bridges and detailed prostheses designed to replace missing bone. The dental lab technician has to take exact measurements and ensure perfect matches to the dentist's specifications.

This work can include:

Color matching: This includes matching stained teeth, and in some cases color matches can be a serious issue for patients.

Shaping to fit the patient's bite: A critically important factor in the effectiveness of the prosthesis.

Complex issues: In some cases complex joins on the ends of prostheses, which are intended to fit with either teeth or other prostheses. The dentist provides the information required, but the ultimate product has to be a perfect fit, to do the job properly. That can involve very small areas in which the prosthesis may contain multiple issues for the dental lab to work with.

Technology is helping provide some improvements in the dental lab technician's workload. Laser molding and measuring techniques, common in plastics, are at least providing some of the additional support required in ensuring accuracy. However, the nature of the work remains case-specific, and dental lab technicians have to focus on the individual issues involved.

Hours: Dental lab technicians usually work standard business hours, unless the workload demands otherwise.

Salaries: Wages range from $12 to $27 an hour. Scales vary on experience, qualifications and in some cases employers.

The career environment

Dental labs can be big, profitable, businesses. The dental lab technician can progress up to creating their own business, despite the overheads and costs of materials and equipment. Many dental labs work in close conjunction with dentists, and have excellent regular work through these mutually supportive business relationships.

Other good career paths are created through specialization, further training and qualifications. In some cases technicians work with labs which specialize in certain forms of prostheses, ceramics, or other forms of dental work. These areas are good training and experience for higher paying jobs and can lead to advancement of business models.