Dental Laboratory Technician Careers

Dental laboratory technology includes the art and science of designing and manufacturing corrective devices for teeth along with replacements of natural teeth. Because each patient’s needs are different, the duties for a dental laboratory technician are varied but typically include communicating and collaborating with the dentist to create dental prostheses for individual patients.

The dentist provides dental laboratory along with a prescription which details the final treatment determination as well as placement of corrective or restorative devices in the mouth of the patient. The dental technician assists the dentist in making material choices during the process along with case design. The technician is also responsible for the fabrication of the final corrective or prostheses devices.

A dental laboratory technician helps to positively influence the physical and dental health of patients through the fabrication of esthetic dental prostheses that improve the patient’s smile. This helps to improve the self-esteem of the patient.

Ideal dental laboratory technician candidates have the ability to recognize differences in color and shape, excellent attention to minute detail, manual dexterity, great hand-eye coordination and an interest in material sciences and emerging technologies. This position is ideal for individuals who are both artistic and have an interest in business and technology.


Two dental specialty types rely on the dental laboratory technician’s skills. These fields include orthodontics and restorative dentistry or prosthodontics.

If a patient loses a part of the entire tooth due to accident, disease, decay or illness and the tooth or teeth must be replaced to preserve normal form and function, restorative dentistry is used.

If a tooth or teeth must be moved or stabilized to optimize the esthetics or function of the teeth or to prevent painful dysfunction, orthodontics is provided.

Dental laboratory technicians work directly with dentists while using molds or impressions of the patient’s teeth or oral soft tissues to make:

  • Removable partial dentures or fixed bridges
  • Full dentures
  • Veneers which enhance esthetics and functions of a patient’s teeth
  • Crowns, which are caps designed to restore the original shape and size of teeth
  • Splints and orthodontic appliances to help protect and straighten teeth

Dental technicians also work with a variety of materials like plastics, waxes, stainless steel, precious and non-precious alloys, porcelains and composites or polymer glass combinations.

Working Conditions

The work required of dental laboratory technicians is very time consuming and extremely delicate. Technicians whose pay is based on salary usually work 40 hours per week but those who are self-employed often work longer hours.

The areas in which they work are typically clean, well-ventilated and well-lighted. Technicians often have their own workbenches which are equipped with grinding and polishing equipment, Bunsen burners or electric waxers, hand instruments like spatulas and carvers or computer design software, printing or milling equipment or scanners.

Most technicians work in small boutique or commercial laboratories with two to nine employees although some labs are larger and employ over 100 technicians. In larger laboratories, technicians may work their way up to a supervisory level where they train new technicians.

Technicians may be employed by private dental offices, laboratories, hospitals, manufacturers, suppliers or the military.

Experienced technicians may also teach in dental laboratory technology programs or be instructors for dental manufacturers or suppliers.

Salary Range

The average entry-level salary for dental laboratory technicians is about $13.00 per hour with an average salary of about $30,000. Those with more experience make an average hourly wage of $23 per hour and $70,300 per year.


Technology is advancing, which means there is an increased demand for cosmetic and restorative dentistry, including dental laboratory technicians. Because of this, there is a high demand in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment opportunities are expected to grow 7% between 2012 and 2022.

Academic Requirements

Formal training is available for dental laboratory technology is available at vocational-technical institutes, community and junior colleges and through the military. Programs vary in both the level of training they provide as well as length.

Dental laboratory technology programs are certificate programs that in most cases take anywhere from nine to eleven months to complete, however many options are available to accommodate the needs of students. Accelerated programs may be offered at some locations to be completed in a shorter time. Other locations may offer part-time or online education programs. Approximately 24 programs that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) are available across the country.

The most advanced dental laboratory technology training can be acquired through two-year accredited associate degree programs along with continuing education programs to follow. To find an accredited dental lab tech program, see the American Dental Association website.

To qualify for dental laboratory certification, technicians must meet prerequisites and pass three separate exams. These prerequisites may be met by having at least five years of experience in dental technology or on the job training or by graduating from an accredited program suitable for the dental laboratory technician field.

Most fully trained dental laboratory technicians learn on the job by beginning with simple tasks like pouring gypsum material into an impression. The learning process continues as they learn to do more complex procedures like making crowns, bridges, dentures or bending wires. Technicians typically undergo an average of three to four years of experience on the job before they are considered to be an accomplished technician.

Technicians who have experience or education in dental technology of at least five years are encouraged to distinguish themselves by taking the Certified Dental Technicians examinations. This represents compliance with established standards along with a personal commitment to professionalism and quality.

New techniques, materials and equipment are introduced regularly to dental technology. As a result, technicians need to keep up with their education through seminars and training courses.

State Requirements

Most states do not have minimum qualifications for individuals to work in the dental laboratory technician field; however, specific standards are encouraged to be met by the industry for the benefit of dental patients.

Popular Programs

see our preferred schools