Dental Ceramist Training and Education Program Overviews
Dental ceramics is one of the five specializations in dental laboratory technology. In the past, this specialty was learned through on-the-job training. That is often still the case, although it is becoming more common for a dental laboratory technologist, and thus the dental ceramist, to earn a certificate or an associate degree in dental laboratory technology. These programs are most often found in community colleges or technical schools.
Certificates in Dental Laboratory Technology
There are two types of dental laboratory technology certificates. The first is essentially the same as an associate degree without the general education courses. The second is more of an introductory program, with fewer required courses. The first will prepare students to become a Certified Dental Technician (CDT); the second will not. However, the introductory-type certificate may be a good place to start for individuals not certain if this field is for them. It may also be a good option for someone who will be taking a job that offers on-the-job technician training.
Education prerequisites for certificates in dental laboratory technology are minimal -- a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, some schools suggest that high school courses include certain subjects. Those most often mentioned include computers, anatomy, physiology and chemistry. A few schools state they will give preference to students who have earned at least 12 credits in non-remedial college courses.
Coursework for certificates that have the same dental laboratory technology course requirements as an associate degree will be covered in the associate degree section. Coursework for the introductory certificates may include:
- Introduction to dental technology
- Basics of fixed prosthodontics
- Basics of full dentures
- Basics of partial dentures
- Dental materials
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 14% increase in employment would likely occur for dental laboratory technicians from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected that the rise in job growth will be aided by the growing demand for cosmetic prostheses by an aging population. However, the BLS also reported that job growth will be offset by productivity-boosting advances in lab technology. In mid-2009, the average annual wage for dental laboratory technicians was almost $38,000, with some technicians making as much as $58,000.
Once students have earned a dental laboratory technology certificate, they may decide to earn an associate degree. Many schools that offer certificates and degrees also offer continuing education courses. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and job experience added to the certificate can often prepare individuals to sit for the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC) certification exams (www.nbccert.org).
Associate in Applied Science in Dental Laboratory Technology
The dental technician that specializes in ceramics -- the dental ceramist -- will fill a dentist's prescription for ceramic or porcelain crowns, bridges, the visible part of a transplant and other dental prosthetics. However, the associate degree program for a dental laboratory technologist generally covers all five of the specialties: ceramics, crowns and bridges, partial dentures, complete dentures and orthodontic appliances. In the final semester of the program, some schools allow the student to choose electives to complete a specialization. Often a certificate in the specialization will be given in addition to the AAS degree. Programs may be 4-5 semesters long. Prerequisites are the same as for the certificate programs.
An associate degree has general education requirements. Courses specific to dental lab technology may include:
- Dental anatomy
- Techniques for dentures
- Materials for orthodontic prosthetics
- Techniques for crowns and bridges
- Techniques for removable prosthodontics
- Dental physiology
- Dental history and ethics
- Orthodontic appliances for children
- Introduction to dental ceramics
Technicians who wish to increase potential opportunities for advancement often choose to become a Certified Dental Technician (CDT), a nationally recognized certification offered by the NBC. Graduates of an associate degree program may first sit for Recognized Graduate (RG) exam. They then have four years to take the Written Specialty and Practical Exam to become a CDT. An Advanced Certificate in Dental Laboratory Sciences is also available to help update and maintain professional proficiency. In addition, regular continuing education classes are available from many colleges that offer degrees and certificates in dental lab technology. A Bachelor of Science in Dental Laboratory Sciences is another possible path to follow.
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