Dental Laboratory Technician Schools
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), more than 35,000 people were employed as dental lab technicians in the U.S. as of 2017. While working on fabricated dental materials is a critical part of the career, it also requires a variety of other skills such as good time management, manual dexterity, and an ability to discern various shades of color. Dental lab technicians actually work in laboratories, not dental offices, where they help to create restorative devices for individuals’ teeth. Each of the restorations that they do is unique, according to the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL), and the devices they create must be able to function similarly to parts of natural teeth and dentition. “But, beyond that,” the NADL website reads, “the technician’s great challenge is to capture and recreate both the perfection and the imperfection of natural teeth.”
Many dental lab techs work in small labs, often just having a few employees each, but others work for larger companies having 100 employees or more. Some of these labs, particularly the larger ones, may offer on-the-job training to employees, but many aspiring dental lab technicians choose to train for the profession by completing a postsecondary education program. Good candidates for employment in these labs should be comfortable using small instrumentation, have an interest in underlying materials and be patient when it comes to working on small details.
|Dental Lab Technician fast facts|
|Projected Jobs Created||5,500|
|Projected Job Growth||14%|
|Average Salary (Median)||$41,990|
|Entry-Level EDU||HS Diploma|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2018|
Degree & certification Programs
No formal training is strictly required to become a dental lab technician and many do learn on the job. However, for those wanting to gain some experience in order to find the best jobs, a variety of certificate and associate degree programs are available to help provide training.
Dental lab tech programs provide education specifically about building crowns, dentures and other types of prosthodontics, which are central to the professional role. However, specific coursework may need to be completed before being accepted into a dental lab tech program. This may include reading, math and writing prerequisites or even completing a wax carving test. Education can helpful to some people interested in the career. According to the website O*NET OnLine, 22 percent of surveyed dental lab technicians reported having some type of postsecondary education while 17 percent have completed an associate degree. Listed immediately below are five dental lab tech schools offering programs in the U.S.:
Bates Technical College: This Tacoma, Washington-based school offers a 120-quarter credit program enabling students to work toward becoming a dental lab technician. The program, which leads to completion of an associate of applied science degree, includes general education requirements in communications, human relations, and math, with the remainder strictly focusing on dental lab technician education coursework. In the dental lab tech portion, students explore topics ranging from dental anatomy to denture repair and fixed orthodontic appliances and also complete learning experiences or seminars. For those looking for a shorter educational program, Bates Technical College also offers a 63-quarter credit dental lab tech certificate.
Pasadena City College: Students can complete a certificate in restorative dentistry over four semesters and two winter intersessions at this Pasadena, California-based school. Despite the name, this program prepares students to work in a dental lab tech capacity. The program is comprised of 61 units and includes classes in orthodontics and pedodontics, partial dentures, and dental laboratory management. A clinical experience is additionally required, occurring during the winter intersession of a student’s second year. An expanded associate of degree in health sciences is also available, requiring completion of general education requirements, but the best way to find out more is by speaking with an enrollment counselor, according to the school’s website. Upon completion of the certificate in dental lab technology or the associate degree, students should be prepared to sit for the Recognized Graduate (RG) Certified Dental Technician Examination administered by the National Board for Certification (NBC) of Dental Laboratory Technicians.
AmeriTech College: The dental lab technician program available at this Draper, Utah campus is offered during the day only and leads to the completion of a diploma. The program specifically helps students to understand the entry-level responsibilities needed to work on bridges and crowns in dental labs, including how to use fabricated materials to reproduce outcomes that are close to natural dentition, according to the school website. The program is 60 semester credit hours, which is three semesters in length, totaling 45 weeks. There is no externship available with this program, but graduates of this dental lab technician school should be ready to sit for the crown, bridge and ceramics portion of the Recognized Graduate (RG) exam administered through the National Board for Certification of the National Association of Dental Laboratories.
Portland Community College: Students interested in dental lab technology can complete either the two-year certificate or the associate of applied science degree in dental lab technology at this Portland, Oregon school. The associate degree simply requires students to complete general education degree requirements on top of the program components already needed for the certificate program. Both the certificate and associate degree programs prepare students to sit for the national certification exam. Additionally, the school reports that its graduates are in high demand and many find employment within six weeks of graduating.
Reynolds Community College: This dental lab tech school, in Richmond, Virginia, offers an associate of applied science degree program that requires completion of 67 credit hours. Courses in math, college composition, and college success skills are part of this program as are classes in dental lab materials, dental ceramics, and fixed prosthodontics. Toward the end of the program, students complete six credits of a dental lab practicum that gives them lab experiences in two specialty areas as well as in a commercial dental lab. The practicum takes approximately 16 hours per week. Students also complete a dental lab or dental tech business research project, which entails putting together a paper as well as a table clinic presentation.
Keep in mind that there may be other requirements necessary to completing a dental lab technology program. For example, at Portland Community College, students are required to obtain a C grade or higher in all of their coursework. Admission for some programs may be selective as well. This is also the case at Portland Community College, where an initial 24 students are accepted into the program and others are placed on an alternate list.
List of Dental Lab Technician Schools
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|Florida National University-Main Campus||Hialeah||Florida||http://www.fnu.edu||49|
|Durham Technical Community College||Durham||North Carolina||http://www.durhamtech.edu||29|
|Diablo Valley College||Pleasant Hill||California||http://www.dvc.edu||22|
|Erie Community College||Buffalo||New York||https://www.ecc.edu/||21|
|CUNY New York City College of Technology||Brooklyn||New York||http://www.citytech.cuny.edu||20|
|National Career College||Van Nuys||California||http://www.nccusa.edu||19|
|Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne||Fort Wayne||Indiana||http://www.ipfw.edu||18|
|Bluegrass Community and Technical College||Lexington||Kentucky||http://www.bluegrass.kctcs.edu/||18|
|Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Nashville||Nashville||Tennessee||http://www.tcatnashville.edu||17|
|Gwinnett Technical College||Lawrenceville||Georgia||http://www.GwinnettTech.edu||17|
|Bates Technical College||Tacoma||Washington||http://www.bates.ctc.edu/||17|
|William T McFatter Technical Center||Davie||Florida||http://www.mcfattertech.com||15|
|Pima Community College||Tucson||Arizona||https://www.pima.edu/||15|
|J Sargeant Reynolds Community College||Richmond||Virginia||http://www.reynolds.edu||15|
|Columbus State Community College||Columbus||Ohio||http://www.cscc.edu/||14|
|University at Buffalo||Buffalo||New York||http://www.buffalo.edu||13|
|Moreno Valley College||Moreno Valley||California||http://www.mvc.edu/||13|
|Portland Community College||Portland||Oregon||http://www.pcc.edu||12|
|Los Angeles City College||Los Angeles||California||http://www.lacitycollege.edu/||12|
|Kirkwood Community College||Cedar Rapids||Iowa||http://www.kirkwood.edu||11|
|Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Memphis||Memphis||Tennessee||http://www.tcatmemphis.edu||10|
|Texas State Technical College-Harlingen||Harlingen||Texas||http://www.tstc.edu/||9|
|Moraine Park Technical College||Fond du Lac||Wisconsin||http://www.morainepark.edu||9|
|Indian River State College||Fort Pierce||Florida||http://www.irsc.edu||9|
|ICDC College||Huntington Park||California||http://www.icdccollege.edu/||9|
|New York University||New York||New York||http://www.nyu.edu||7|
|Putnam Career and Technical Center||Eleanor||West Virginia||http://www.pctc.edu/||6|
|Middlesex Community College||Bedford||Massachusetts||https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/||6|
|Moore Norman Technology Center||Norman||Oklahoma||https://www.mntc.edu/classes/health||5|
|Atlanta Technical College||Atlanta||Georgia||http://www.atlantatech.edu/||5|
|Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans||New Orleans||Louisiana||http://www.lsuhsc.edu/||4|
|Commonwealth Technical Institute||Johnstown||Pennsylvania||http://www.hgac.org||4|
|Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf||Big Spring||Texas||http://www.howardcollege.edu/swcid/||3|
|Milwaukee Area Technical College||Milwaukee||Wisconsin||http://www.matc.edu/||3|
|Mountwest Community and Technical College||Huntington||West Virginia||http://www.mctc.edu||2|
Hybrid & online programs
Dental lab tech programs are generally campus-based, since they require students to learn the hands-on skills essential to creating crowns, bridges and other types of dental devices. However, students may be able to find some programs that allow them to take some of their general education requirements or electives through distance learning. Applicants should recognize that this is one healthcare field where on-campus attendance is required, but that there are other related fields such as dental assisting where a broad range of online programs can be found. Work experiences may be part of these dental assisting programs, but again, as with dental lab tech schools, dental assisting program requirements can vary by school or state.
That said, some private organizations, such as PTC Dental, based out of Morgan Hill, California, do offer some online instruction. Students interested in gaining dental lab tech skills through PTC’s program must first take posterior and anterior anatomy courses online. After finishing both of these courses, students are urged to speak to a PTC consultant to find out which of the dental tech program areas may be best for them.
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|San Antonio College||San Antonio||Texas||http://www.alamo.edu/sac/||4|
Core & Elective Courses
Many programs in dental lab tech focus on building crowns and bridges, since these types of devices are an essential part of the occupation. Students should learn many of the necessary skills for the occupation at dental lab tech schools, if they are not completing an on-the-job program, but the name of their classes or courses may vary. Some classes in dental lab tech school could include:
Refractory cast production
Gold crown waxing
Clinicals, practicums and other learning experiences may also be a part of a program, although these requirements vary by school and program type. For example, the associate degree program in dental lab technology at Durham Tech in Durham, North Carolina, requires students to complete off-campus rotations at actual lab sites during their fifth semester. Alternatively, the dental lab technology program available through McFatter Technical College, in Davie, Florida, requires a five-week internship as part of its program. Students may also need to do research projects or write papers summing up their learning.
Choosing a dental lab tech program means evaluating a number of different factors, including accreditation. Ideally, students should look for programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Graduation from an approved school is needed to seek Registered Graduate (RG) status or Certified Dental Technician (CDT) status through the through the National Board for Certification (NBC) in Dental Laboratory Technology. Although accreditation is not synonymous with approval, all CODA-accredited programs are also approved. Further, accreditation provides assurance to students that their program has been assessed and thoroughly examined by an outside agency, and found to meet certain standards. As of 2018, the ADA accredits 14 dental lab technology programs in the U.S.
In addition to programmatic accreditation, applicants can look for a school's overall accreditation status. Regionally-based accrediting bodies such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) evaluate a school's overall facilities, faculty and programs and provide accreditation based on that assesssment.
Jobs for dental lab technicians should grow by 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS (2017). This growth is twice the average for all occupations over the same period. Indeed, there should be a need for jobs as the cost of prosthetic veneers, including crowns, is expected to become more affordable. Additionally, accidents and poor individual dental health could also drive the need for dental lab technician skills as will people’s aesthetic desires to improve their smile and dental features, the BLS indicates.
The National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) also paints a rosy job demand picture. According to a page on its website, the 21st century will be a time of promise and growth in dental lab and dental sales. “There will be no decline in the demand for dental services, rather the demand will grow,” indicates the site, quoting Peter Stein, BS, MB, PA from the Golden Quarter Century. “The future of the entire dental arena is very promising.”
|Career Facts||Dental Lab Technician|
|Related Careers||Medical Appliance Technician, Opthalmatic Laboratory Technician, Medical Equipment Repairer|
|Common Job Titles||Dental Lab Technologists|
|Technology & Equipment||Dental Articulators, Dental Ovens, Porcelain Furnaces|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2018|
Licensing & Certification
After graduating from a dental lab tech program or completing on-the-job training, students may wish to become a Recognized Graduate, or RG, a status awarded through the National Board for Certification (NBC) in Dental Lab Technology. To be eligible, students must graduate from a school that has been approved by the NBC.
In order to be recognized as an approved school, a program may either be:
- Accredited by CODA
- Listed in the US Department of Education Database of Accredited Post-Secondary Institutions and Programs, or
- Accredited through their state's Higher Education Executive Officers or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation
Students must also take and pass the RG exam within one year of graduation.
Individuals might later choose to seek Certified Dental Technician (CDT) status, which, according to the NBC website, is an indication of an employee’s commitment to dental technology and attests to their specialized knowledge. “The pride of earning a CDT is personally rewarding and the CDT designation places the certificant among a group of individuals who are at the top of the dental technology profession,” NBC’s website indicates. To achieve this certification, candidates have to pass three exams, which can be taken in any order, within four years. This includes a practical exam, a specialty exam and a comprehensive exam. Specialty exams are available in orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, and ceramics, according to the BLS. RGs can actually substitute their RG exam for the comprehensive exam as long as this is done within four years. Five years of experience can also substitute for graduation from an accredited program.
Individuals are not alone in preparing for their examinations. A downloadable CDT handbook and a number of study clubs are listed on the NBC website to help people find others with whom to study.