Dental laboratory technicians work in dental laboratories manufacturing dental products that include dentures, dental implants, crowns, bridges, and orthodontic devices. These technicians receive a prescription from a dentist and manufacture the devices to the dentist’s specifications. Dental laboratories are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Although certification for dental laboratories is voluntary, certified dental laboratories must meet high standards in training, infection control, and skilled manufacturing practices. To obtain higher levels of certification, dental laboratories may allow on-site inspection of their facilities by a third-party inspector, to guarantee the safety and efficacy of their products and procedures.
The National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) was established in 1951 and exists to promote professionalism and maintain technical standards in dental laboratories in the United States. The NADL advocates for members of the dental laboratory trade, established connections with dental businesses, and provides educational seminars and materials for its members. The NADL also offers a training program that culminates in a Certificate in Dental Laboratory Management and supports this training with scholarship opportunities for its members. Interested parties can complete an associate’s degree at multiple academic institutions, training them to be a dental laboratory technician, or they may participate in a 5-year dental laboratory apprenticeship. To become certified as a dental laboratory technician, they must successfully complete an examination offered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology; this certification must be renewed annually and maintained with continuing education. The NADL works closely with the FDAto establish and maintain rigorous guidelines to protect the health of patients and the efficacy and safety of the devices they manufacture. With this in mind, the NADL promotes mandatory certification and mandatory registration of all dental laboratories.
Dental laboratory technology requires a comprehensive and broad set of skills. Although dental laboratory technicians don’t work directly with patients, they must work closely with dentists and dental professionals, carefully following written instructions and meticulously creating devices based on dental impressions, or molds. Dental laboratory technicians may make full dentures, removable dentures, fixed bridges, dental crowns, dental veneers, and orthodontic appliances. Dental technicians use a wide variety of materials, including precious metals and metal alloys and several different types of ceramics; as technologies advance, technicians must learn the properties characteristics of newly developed materials to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. and must be well-versed in the use of laboratory equipment and instruments. The field exists at the intersection of art and science, as technicians must understand the materials they’re using and the mechanical purposes of the devices they create, while also manufacturing aesthetically attractive and appropriate devices. The field is flexible and creative, offering both independence and job security. Technicians report high levels of personal fulfillment and job satisfaction, as they positively and measurably affect the health and well-being of patients. Occupational outlook for dental laboratory technicians is favorable, with significant job growth expected in the near and distant future, especially as the U.S. population ages and innovations in dentistry continue. Earning potential is commensurate with skills, responsibilities, and geographic location.