Dental laboratory technicians begin their work when they receive an order from a dentist or orthodontist with an impression of the patient’s mouth. Historically, this has been a plaster cast; recently, however, digital casts have begun being employed. Making use of molds and a variety of materials, the dental techs will then use their training and artistic eye to create a device that is not only functional, but also comfortable and cosmetically pleasing.
If you want to become a dental lab technician, you should know it requires a very specific set of skills, qualities, and (in some cases) personality traits. Some of them can be learned and developed; others are more innate.
Creativity is the most important quality for DLTs to possess. Your whole job is supporting dentists with lab technology, which primarily involves producing precisely fabricated crowns and bridges. It isn’t assembly-line work. You aren’t producing a daily quota of identical teeth.
Attention to Detail
Because every patient has unique dental work, dental lab techs must have an eye for detail. The slightest groove or angle can prevent a crown from fitting properly, and creating bridges requires attention to not just neighboring teeth but the shape of the mouth. Proper dental aesthetics, of course, also require detailed understanding of a patient’s teeth and their imperfections, so smiles look totally natural. You can’t ever be sloppy. Dental lab technology is Type A work, through and through.
Dental Lab Technology is a constantly changing field. Every day, it seems, there are new developments, new methods, and new technological innovations. Part of being a great DLT requires knowledge of these trends, which requires some research skills. When you enter the field, you’ll have a strong base knowledge of the industry, but to remain on the cutting edge, you need to educate yourself on these changes and innovations regularly.
Independent Work Drive
Some dental labs are huge, with dozens of technicians working in shifts and taking meals and breaks together. More common, though, are smaller groups of two or three technicians, working independently. Workers who require a great amount of oversight and accountability may struggle as dental lab technicians.
Dental Laboratory Technician Careers: Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the field will grow by 1% by 2020, with little to no change. This is much slower than the national average for all occupations.
Increased efficiency due to technological advances will slow the rate of hire for new applicants, but as stated above, there will still be need. Dental laboratory technicians with training, especially formal training, and who are comfortable with new technologies should have the best chance of finding work.