Most of us have heard of dentists, hygienists and dental nurses. However, the forth specialised dental profession is generally less well known. Ask the average man on the street what a dental technician does, and he’ll probably come up stumped.
The reason is that the dental technician works behind the scenes, well away from the dentist’s chair. Dental technicians construct the dental appliances and fixtures that dentists fit for patients in the dental practice.
Technicians are the craftspeople that create the bridges, crowns, veneers and implants that are part of many essential dental treatments.
What Does the Work Involve?
Once a dentist has determined that a patient needs a dental appliance, he’ll create a prescription for the technician. This often consists of a detailed brief with measurements and description, sometimes along with physical dental impressions of the relevant area of the patient’s mouth.
With all this information, the technician has everything he needs to create a perfectly customised dental appliance.
The technician will use specialised equipment to produce the finished piece, and will employ a combination of electronic computer equipment, automated machinery and hand-crafting with specialised instruments.
When the piece is finished, it gets sent to the dentist for fitting. Since dentists can choose which labs to order their fittings from, dental technicians stand or fall on the quality of their work, as a bad dental applicance could lose their lab the custom of a whole dental practice.
What Are The Career Prospects?
Dental Technicians in the UK can expect to be well compensated and to have good opportunities for career growth. Their earnings fall in the mid-range of salaries for dental professionals. Dental technicians generally begin their careers on salaries of around £22,000, which has the potential to rise to up to £40,000 for advanced technicians with years of experience and specialty skills.
As most dental technicians work in teams in laboratories, there’s often opportunity for experienced technicians to further their career by progressing to better-paying management roles, handling and directing teams of technicians.
Another career option for competent dental technicians is a move into the clinic, where they actually interact with and serve patients directly.
Clinical dental technicians are expected to have all the technical ability of laboratory technicans, as well as strong interpersonal skills in order to interact with patients to ensure maximum contentment during and after their dental fittings.
What Training Does It Require?
Dental technician training involves acquiring a combination of biological and scientific knowledge, coupled with very high levels of manual skill and dexterity.
Dental technicians are at heart, craftspeople. Their work can be compared to something like engineering. As such, the training is very practical and vocational.
Budding technicians can enter their chosen profession through two main routes – a BTEC vocational qualification, or a degree in Dental Technology. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
The BTEC course offers more direct and practical hands-on training, and is designed to allow new dental technicians to hit the ground running.
The degree takes longer, and the technician won’t develop as much practical skill throughout their course – but they’ll receive a stronger grounding in the scientific principles that underly dental technology production. As such, they often find that they can progress faster in their career.
Is It Right For You?
So – now you’ve got a solid overview of what a dental technican does, how they do it and what their career options are. As you’d expect, a dental technician career isn’t for everyone – it requires a strong technical mindset, and also high levels of natural dexterity and an innate love for craftsmanship.
Also, the hours can be long, and you’ll be inside a laboratory all day. However – for people with the necessary skills and drive, a career as a dental technician can be a great way to master a challenging craft, while also providing a service that truly helps people. If that sounds like your cup of tea, check out some of our other dental blog posts on the general state of the industry – and get ready to take your first step towards a stimulating and rewarding career.