Certified Dental Technician Education Requirements and Career Info

Dental technicians work in laboratories, creating prosthetic dental and orthodontic restorations from metal, wax, ceramics and other materials. Students wishing to become certified dental technicians may pursue certificates, associate's or bachelor's degrees. Dental technicians may earn certifications by passing several written examinations.

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Education Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are no specific educational requirements for employment as a dental technician (www.bls.gov). However, passing the examinations required to become a certified dental technician usually requires some degree of experience, education or both. Individuals interested in becoming dental technicians may earn a certificate, or an associate's or bachelor's degree. Many certificate and degree programs are accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (www.ada.org).

Certificates, which are available through technical and community colleges, educate students on the different types of prosthetic dental apparatuses made by technicians, such as a crown or bridge, and dental and orthodontic moldings. Students also learn about ceramics, the prime material used to manufacture false teeth.

Aspiring dental technicians may also earn a 2-year associate degree or a 4-year bachelor degree. Associate's degree programs cover the basic concepts discussed above, as well as providing education in oral anatomy and physiology, chemistry, dental ethics, patient communication, occlusion and orthodontic appliances.

While associate's degrees are the most common undergraduate option for dental technicians, some bachelor's degree programs are available as well. Bachelor's degree programs provide students with an in-depth education in topics that include laboratory safety and quality control, dental research and dental technology. Undergraduate programs rely heavily on applied experience, generally requiring completion of a laboratory internship prior to graduation.

Career Information

Dental technicians use wax, metal, porcelain and ceramic bonding to develop dental restorations such as tooth crowns, dentures and orthodontic retainers. Dental technicians base their work on the digital or manual specifications given to them by dentists. Dentists create molds of patients' mouths and then pass them on in the form of prescriptions to be filled by dental technicians.

Dental technicians generally work in dental manufacturing laboratories; however, positions may also be available in dentist's offices or at government agencies. Because their job duties include the use of welding equipment, hot wax and other potentially dangerous materials, dental technicians must take appropriate on-the-job safety measures, such as wearing masks or protective goggles. Most dental laboratories offer training programs for newly-hired technicians, which explain safety and other relevant concepts in detail.

According to the BLS, dental laboratory technicians made a median yearly salary of $34,170 as of May 2008. The BLS also reported that the highest average hourly wages within the industry were paid to dental technicians working in the federal government.

Certification Information

Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas are the only states to mandate that at least one technician in a laboratory be a certified dental technician, reports the BLS. In all other states, certification requirements exist only at the discretion of individual employers. Status as a certified dental technician, whether compulsory or voluntary, may lead to career or salary advancement.

Dental technicians may obtain certification through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC). In order to earn NBC designation as a Certified Dental Technician (CDT), technicians must pass two written examinations and one applied examination (www.nbccert.org).

One written exam tests measures general knowledge, while the applied and second written examinations test technicians in one of any five areas of specialization. Technicians must declare a specialization prior to beginning the examination process, and can choose from a group including crown and bridge, complete or partial dentures, ceramics and orthodontics. In order to maintain NBC certification, CDTs must fulfill 12 continuing education credit hours annually.

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