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Dental Laboratory Technicians

Dental laboratory technicians develop dentures, bridges, and crowns. Dentists submit prescriptions or orders with teeth or mouth molds to dental laboratory technicians. Many technicians now receive digital impressions. After prescriptions have been submitted, technicians develop models by inserting plaster into molds and waiting for it to set. After plaster sets, technicians sit the model on a device that mimics a jaw’s movement. The model acts as the basis of the new device. They then analyze the model, paying close attention to the shape and size of the patients’ teeth and gaps in their gumline. After completing their evaluations and reviewing the specifics provided by the dentist, technicians use specialized tools known as wax carvers and spatulas to create and finish a wax tooth model. Wax models are utilized to cast the prosthetic device’s metal framework.

Once the wax tooth has been properly formed, these specialists pour the cast, use specialized instruments to shape it, and let the device sit, so the metal bonds to the device. Once this is done, dental laboratory technicians layer the porcelain to the exact measurements of the tooth’s shape. Technicians insert the tooth into a furnace to bind the porcelain to the metal and then modify it to meet the required specifications. After prosthetic devices have been baked, technicians complete final touch-up work and seal the finished device. The prosthetic device is now an exact replica of the patient’s tooth.

At certain laboratories, technicians perform all this work, but technicians at bigger laboratories often specialize. The following are areas of specialization for dental laboratory technicians: ceramics, partial dentures, complete dentures, bridges, crowns, and orthodontic appliances. Position titles are often reflected in specializations.

Education and Training
The military, vocational schools, junior colleges, and colleges and universities offer formal training programs in dental laboratory technology. As of 2008, the American Dental Association and the Commission on Dental Accreditation recognized 20 programs. It typically takes 2 years to finish a training program, but it takes 4 years to finish some programs.

The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology sponsors the Certified Dental Technician program for those interested in national certification. Only 3 states require dental laboratory technicians to certify. Certification programs are available in orthodontic appliances, complete dentures, partial dentures, ceramics, and bridges and crowns. To become certified, technicians are required to pass a practical examination, 2 written examinations, and satisfy all educational requirements. To satisfy the educational requirements, applicants are required to complete an accredited dental technology program and acquire 5 years of work experience.

Job Outlook
Job growth for dental laboratory technicians is projected to increase by 14 percent, an above average rate compared to other industries. Recently, increased demand has been attributed to elderly populations utilizing cosmetic prostheses. Likewise, aging populations rely on many products developed by dental technicians, including crowns and bridges since many people are able to keep their original teeth.

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