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Why Creative People Make Great Dental Lab Technicians


It Takes a Lot of Creativity to be a Dental Lab Tech

Money or love: Which would you choose? That’s the struggle for many creative people trying to match a career to their passion.

We all have creative friends who went to school for literature, art, philosophy, and the like. Sometimes they got lucky and found a job in their field; but so many creative people must choose between a creative career that often doesn’t pay well or a more practical, but less fulfilling, profession.

All students want a good return on their investment of time and money spent on their degrees. For all the saving, skimping, and studying we do, we hope to find a job that makes it all worth it.

Dental laboratory technology isn’t an obvious industry for creative types, but that doesn’t mean it should be ruled out. In fact, it’s a profession that not only caters to artistic capabilities but also can be very lucrative as well. With an average salary of $40,000 or more per year and steady employment growth, it’s a solid choice for people who want to create and make a difference in people’s lives.

Related resource: Want a Work/Life Balance? Become a Dental Laboratory Technician!

What do dental lab technicians do?

DLTs create appliances for the mouth, such as crowns, dentures, and implants. They do whitening, contouring, bonding, dental bridges, veneers, and gum lifts. They are in constant communication with dental offices, getting patient records and CAD design files to base their work on. Each patient’s mouth is unique, so each product a DLT makes is different, too.

A dental laboratory technician’s daily activities often include the following:

  • Testing appliances using articulators and micrometers.
  • Melting metals or mixing plaster, porcelain, or acrylic pastes.
  • Pouring materials into molds to form dental prostheses or apparatus.
  • Creating models of patient’s mouth by pouring plaster into a dental impression.
  • Making or fixing dental devices such as dentures, crowns, bridges, and appliances for straightening teeth.
  • Polishing surfaces of prostheses or frameworks, using polishing machines.
  • Preparing metal surfaces for bonding with porcelain to create artificial teeth, using small hand tools.
  • Loading newly constructed teeth into porcelain furnaces to bake onto metal framework.
  • Building and shaping wax teeth, using small hand instruments.
  • Molding wax over denture setups to form the full contours of artificial gums.
  • Soldering wire and metal frames or bands for dental products, using soldering irons and hand tools.
  • Filling chipped or low spots in surfaces of devices, using acrylic resins.

Most DLTs work for small boutique or commercial dental laboratories. The lab might have just a few employees, or more than 100 technicians. Some private dental offices have their own in-house laboratories, too. The military, hospitals, suppliers, and manufacturers also employ dental laboratory technicians.

Related resource: Why Every Dental Lab Needs More Communication with Dentists

DLTs need artists’ skills

Whether you’re a painter, sculpture, art theorist, or just an awesomely all-around creative superstar, you probably have skills that complement a DLT’s duties. Mixing plaster, creating molds, and painting are all artisan work. Here are some other skills that crossover:

Eye-hand coordination. The brushes, building and polishing wheels, and molding devices that a DLT uses every day require a lot of dexterity. If you love painting, knitting, glasswork, or similar, you probably already have great hand-eye coordination!

Color perception. Coloration and color matching are important parts of a dental appliance. You can observe any luncheon gathering of older women and understand how important good denture coloring is.

Attention to detail. Dental occlusion — the alignment of the upper and lower teeth — is very important for dental comfort. A DLT must use exacting standards and tiny measurements to get proper occlusion, where attention to detail is a must.

Creative working environment

DLTs work in a laboratory environment. You can find many of the same tools and supplies in a DLT laboratory as you might find in an artist’s studio!

As orders come in, DLTs usually enjoy a self-directed workflow. The workplace includes a well-lit workbench equipped with Bunsen burners or electric waxers, grinding and polishing equipment, and hand instruments like spatulas and carvers. You’ll also find computers with design software. Technology is becoming a large part of a DLT’s workflow, too.

Related resource: Here’s a Look at Some of the Latest Dental Lab Technology

If you want to put your creativity to good use, these lab technicians enjoy a robust job market, competitive salaries, and freedom of creativity. Even better, you’d be helping thousands of people get a great smile!

To learn more about our accredited two-year dental laboratory technician program, visit our website.