Students will learn fundamental dental practices and prepare for work as dental technicians by enrolling in associate degree programs in Dental Technology. A.A.S. programs in Dental Technology, also referred to as an Associate of Science degree, are available at many community colleges. These programs offer classroom training, preparation for certification, and practical experience opportunities.
A.A.S. Programs in Dental Technology
Students enrolled in Dental technology associate degree programs are provided with laboratory skills they would need, in order to create and repair oral devices and prosthetics. Laboratory instruction and coursework are used to orient students with the tools and equipment employed in dental laboratories; the topic areas covered include implants, orthodontics and prosthodontics. Graduates are trained in a laboratory in the creation of various products, including dentures, crowns and bridges, with various molding materials including acrylic, porcelain and wax. A majority of programs are modular in design and allow students to progress to advanced coursework only after they accomplish a minimum grade. It usually takes two years to complete these programs.
Students are expected to be able to follow directions and pass a test of manual dexterity as part of the requirements for admission, which also include holding by applicants of a GED certificate or high school diploma. Submission of current medical and immunization records by applicants is part of the admission process at some schools.
A corresponding lab is usually provided by coursework in these programs. Students are primarily trained in the basics of design and formation of devices before they can practice the skills in a supervised setting. Some topic areas within the coursework could include:
•Occlusal surface restoration
•Fixed and removable prosthodontics
Though individuals need no more than on-the job training and a high school diploma to work as dental lab technicians, they can expect to acquire sufficient experience and knowledge in an associate degree program to be able to seek entry-level jobs in the field in various settings including:
•Dental manufacturing companies
•Independent dental laboratories
Job and Wage Outlook
In 2012, dental laboratory technicians earned, on average, an annual salary of $36,090 (source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). From 2010-2020, the employment growth, for dental laboratory technicians, is projected to be only 1%.
Continuing Education Choices
Graduates of a dental technology associate degree program can pursue continued education by enrolling into a bachelor’s degree program in dental technology. At least one lab technician must necessarily be certified in some states (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). Such certification is offered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. Even professionals who don’t need certification could volunteer, for a credential, to boost their career prospects. Apart from the National Board for Certification, the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics is another organization that offers credentials for dental lab technicians.