A Day in the Life of a Dental Laboratory Technician
Have you considered becoming a dental laboratory technician? It’s a growing and lucrative healthcare field that offers a lot in terms of career stability and satisfaction, especially among creative individuals seeking a low-stress medical environment.
To give you an inside look at what it’s like to be a dental laboratory technician student at Ameritech, we sat down with Jackie Schoeneweis, a former student. Read on to hear her insights about the program, words of wisdom for prospective students, and more.
Preparing for life as a dental lab tech student
“I had no idea what I was doing! Someone came to my class in high school, and I thought it was interesting. I saw an opportunity to do something interesting with my life. I was trying to figure out how to pay for it,” Schoeneweis said of being a prospective student who also happened to be engaged to get married at the time. “I found a Pell Grant that let me get school paid for and bumped up wedding to make it happen.”
From the first day of class to the first DLT job offer
“My first semester was great. I really liked it,” Schoeneweis said. “During my second semester I got really sick and I had to take a leave of absence. I started again the next semester, but my attendance fell. I was encouraged to keep going and push through. Linda Petersen actually called me in the mornings to make sure I was up and coming to class. The next semester was fun, and I was able to go to Seattle in October to do a bunch of interviews. My decision to do that has a lot to do with my anniversary. We decided to go to Portland for our anniversary. It was so beautiful that we wanted to live there. When I got a job offer in Seattle, we actually loved it better. We just moved in yesterday! Love the lab, and I love waking up in the morning to go to work. I never even thought about moving out of state, but it provided opportunities.”
Related resource: How to Become a Dental Laboratory Technician
Sage advice for prospective students
“Think about the long run, not the right now,” Schoeneweis suggested. “The right now has little to do with what’s going to happen. You’ll have the ability to push through and get the job done. Imagine the future. It’s really awesome when you’re done.”
Related resource: How to Land a Job as a Dental Laboratory Technician
Interview tips for dental lab tech jobs
Schoeneweis took several steps to prepare for the interview process. “I talked to a lot of administrative people from the program as well as my teachers. I asked all the questions, like do’s and don’ts. It‘s because of them that I did so well in my interviews. I learned that you don’t ask certain things until you’ve already been hired on, such as your pay. Present yourself as professional. You know exactly what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it. But don’t be too aggressive, either. Speak when you’re spoken to, be respectful.
“I put a lot of research into what I was looking for in a job. I was picky. The job I’m now working at wasn’t hiring at the time.” Once Schoeneweis got the chance to interview, though, her patience paid off. “The boss was really impressed. A lot of that is because of the talent of Jared Fielding and Tyler Smith, my teachers. The boss decided that by the time I graduated, they would make a position for me if I wanted to work there. He created a position and I went for it!”
Related resource: Why Creative People Make Great Dental Laboratory Technicians
A typical day in the life of a DLT
“My day now consists of seating crowns that have been milled,” Schoeneweis explained. “When a tooth impression comes in, they use the CAD cam, which recreates the teeth. But the milling process isn’t perfect. We have to go back and make sure that if there’s any rocking or anything on the margin to fix it. If we don’t, when the crown is placed in the mouth, food will get trapped underneath and the crown will pop off.
“I am also the diagnostic waxer. For this, I work with my boss to present the doctor and patient with a copy of what their smile could look like and, in most cases, they use the wax up I create to do what is called a ‘mock up.’ The doctor uses the mold used to replicate the wax up to put an acrylic into the patient’s mouth. That way they can see what it would look like in their mouth. Essentially, I am designing the anatomical structure of how their smile will look in the end.
“My lab has 16 employees, so it’s really small. Everyone does everything. It’s set up like an assembly line. There’s an area for model and dye work, milling, metal finishing, porcelain stacking, staining, and glazing. There’s so much opportunity! My boss loves teaching, and I’ve already learned so much from him in just two weeks. My lab is a lot like school since there’s a lot of teaching going on. My lab is very high quality. It’s very positive and uplifting. I love it.”
Related resource: What Does a Dental Laboratory Technician Do?
Do you think you might enjoy a career as a DLT? Take a moment today to learn more about Utah’s only accredited dental laboratory technician program, and keep in touch with the Ameritech community on Facebook.