Dental Technician Jobs and Careers
Dental technicians perform a creative but technical role in the allied healthcare system.
Supporting the work of dentists, they are responsible for creating, adapting and repairing all kinds of dental appliances and devices.
For example this could include patients' dentures, crowns, veneers, bridges and implants.
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There are four specialist areas that dental technicians can work in and these are reflected in different job titles.
- Orthodontic technicians make braces to correct the position of teeth.
- Prosthodontic technicians design and make dentures.
- Conservation technicians specialise in crown and bridge work.
- Maxillo-facial technicians (or prosthetists) work in hospitals, helping to reconstruct the teeth of people who have been in accidents or who have been affected by disease.
What is Involved in the Dental Technician Job?
Dental technicians (or dental technologists as they are often called) make dentures, crowns, bridges and dental braces in response to requests by dentists. Their work helps dental patients who have lost or damaged their teeth through injury, poor dental health or deterioration due to age. As a result, patients are better able to eat and talk, while their appearance may be improved.
Dental technicians' starting point is the impression of the patient's teeth, or oral soft tissues. Everything they make has to be the perfect fit for that patient's mouth. Usually, dentists take the impressions from the patient and then forward these to the laboratory. With technological advances, these are increasingly supplied as digital impressions rather than a physical mould. In this case, the technician will utilise specialist software to read the measurements and produce plans.
With the impression and the dentists' notes, the technician creates a tooth or bridge out of wax, carving it with spatulas and handheld instruments. A cast is then made from the wax model. This is then used to produce the device from metal and porcelain, the latter being applied in layers until it resembles a tooth or teeth in both shape and colour.
Some technicians perform each stage of such work. In other laboratories, teams divide the different stages up between them. Depending on the exact role, duties during the working week can include the following:
- Reading prescriptions and written instructions, and ascertaining these in relations to dental impressions and models.
- Creating models of patients' mouths by pouring plaster into dental impressions supplied by dentists
- Creating, altering and mending dental appliances, including crowns, bridges, dentures, inlays, etc.
- Using specialist equipment to measure and test dental appliances to ensure they comply with the prescriptions and that they will fit the patient's mouth accurately, functioning properly when the jaw moves.
- Preparing materials, e.g. melting metals and mixing plaster, porcelain and acrylics, to create casts, moulds and models.
- Building wax teeth on models, before sculpting and finishing artificial teeth from porcelain and metal, using hand held tools and polishing equipment.
- Fixing porcelain teeth to metal frameworks and baking these in kilns.
- Repairing dental appliances by filling chips or depressions with acrylic resin, rebuilding linings and wire sections, and replacing missing porcelain teeth.
- Provide training for other dental technicians.
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Is This Job Right for You?
Hours and Conditions
As the work is laboratory based, the working environment is clean, well-lit and well-ventilated. You will work at your own bench, with the equipment that you will need to perform the tasks involved. Increasingly, this work is likely to involve the use of IT in the production of accurate dental impressions and measurements.
Type of Person Required
The work is creative, but delicate and time-consuming, so first and foremost, you have to be the kind of person who focuses on detail. Good vision, sense of colour, good hand-eye co-ordination and manual dexterity all help to make the measurement and construction of dental appliances a more successful area of work. Patience is also important.
Once trained, a dental technician job is largely performed without close supervision. If you are happiest when working solo, then you can experience the satisfaction of seeing a project through from start to finish.
This area of allied health is not the most glamorous, but you will be helping people nevertheless. If you are drawn to this aspect, then the work can be enormously fulfilling, as you will be playing an important role in providing dental healthcare, helping patients with oral health and their self image.
Other skills and attributes normally requested in job descriptions include communication skills, particularly reading ability, so that you respond to written instructions. Time management skills help, as you will be responsible for your own work and will often be unsupervised. Clearly, you need to be able to handle manual tools and operate electrical equipment safely. Finally, the ability to prioritise information and order information will enable you to work creatively while adhering to regulations and specifications.
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, prospective technicians need to study on a Foundation degree in Dental Technology. This takes two years full-time or three years part-time. Admission requires one A-level. Most people complete this while gaining experience in a trainee dental technician role.
The BTEC National Award in Dental Technology is specifically a bridging qualification, requiring four GCSEs at grade 'C' and above. This takes around one year to complete.
A higher level qualification exists in the form of a BSc (Hons) degree in Dental Technology, at a dental school or university. This requires a greater number of A-levels, with grades set year on year.
In Scotland, training is available in the form of the SQA National Certificate in Dental Technology. Access requires five standard grades, or equivalent, at level 1, 2 or 3. These must include English and Science. You also need to complete a National Certificate or undertake accredited prior learning, and pass a selection interview.
To then work as a dental technician or technologist, you must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC).
Salaries and Prospects in Dental Technician Jobs
A career as a dental technician offers flexibility and opportunities for progression. With solid experience, you can progress to a well-paid role in a commercial laboratory, a senior position involving staff supervision in a larger laboratory, or even move to running your own laboratory. Other duties can also include teaching on educational programs or working in research or sales and marketing, usually in relation to materials, instruments or equipment.
There are strong indications that there will always be work of this nature, as the need is unlikely to diminish. Indeed, opportunities are likely to grow in line with an ageing population and greater awareness of dental health.
Generally, dental technicians working for the NHS are not as well paid as their private sector counterparts. For trainees who are still studying, salaries range from around £7,000 to £12,000, depending on experience and scope of the role. With full qualification, this should rise to £16,000-34,000 a year. Salaries vary enormously in line with company, location, industry, experience and benefits. Technicians who complete many stages of the construction process are paid more than technicians who specialise in just one area of the production of appliances.
Dental Technician Jobs Sites
This is a dedicated website for finding Dental Technician Jobs www.denttech.co.uk
General employment Agencies and Healthcare websites will offer Dental Technician vacancies. These include:
www.healthjobsstarthere.com for jobs in the US