Want A Job That Combines Science And Art? Check Out The Dental Technician Career Path
Sometimes the title "dental technician" is used interchangeably with "hygienist," but they are very different professions. While hygienists work in the dental office and clean teeth, a dental technician (also known as a dental prosthetist or ceramist) works in a laboratory and restorative appliances, such as false teeth, and orthodontic appliances. If you are investigating schooling and have a penchant for both science and art, this job may be a perfect fit. Here's a quick overview of the required schooling, future outlook, and required duties.
One of the biggest benefits of this job is that you can get into the workforce fairly quickly. A high school diploma and two years at an accredited vocational school is usually all that's required.
If you are still in high school or you plan on going to a four-year university, you may want to supplement your training with art and shop classes, especially those that emphasize sculpting, soldering, and 3-D artwork. A biology class will also not only prepare you for the job, but it will help you decide if you want to continue the rigors of a dental program or enter the workforce.
What Art and Science Skills are Required?
The Science Side
Technicians need to understand the chemical properties of metals, plastics, and ceramics and how to work them into ideal shapes. You'll need to have a strong understanding of teeth and jaw anatomy since dentists will send you a prescription of how they want appliances constructed to not only fit inside the mouth, but aid in functions like chewing and talking.
The Art Side
Each implant, restoration, or mold you create will be unique since each one is designed for a specific patient. You'll also have to capture the happy medium between beautiful, perfect teeth and the imperfections of natural teeth. NYtimes.com has a fantastic article that talks about the artistry required to create these appliances. Dental technicians must be able to sculpt and paint teeth so that they can capture the translucency of real teeth and the subtlety of colors, since real teeth aren't stark white.
Pay and Outlook
According to payscale.com, you could be making between $20,000 and $60,000 a year. Starting salaries aren't bad for entry-level work. The good news is that there is definite mobility in this profession. Most of your work will be on-the-job training, and so you can develop a niche as you gain more experience. And if you work hard, you can increase your pay by overseeing a laboratory or team of less-experienced technicians.
The sector isn't growing quickly, which will be good because you'll have less competition. But laboratories will definitely need people with your skills because changes in healthcare and lower material costs are making dental appliances more available to the general public. Plus, the aging baby boomers will be needing dental implants and other appliances.
If this sounds like a good fit, you may want to talk with a dentist like Bedich Joseph D DDS MAGD and see if they can recommend some good schools or a laboratory apprenticeship.