A Day in the Life of a Dental Lab Technician
The life and daily routine of a dental lab technician, though, is less common knowledge, since DLTs work behind the scenes. They provide the dentists with crowns, bridges, and any other fabrication needed, but few people have seen the process firsthand. For anyone who’s considering a career as a dental lab tech, knowing what a regular work day looks like is crucial information, since you need to have an idea of the job before you decide to pursue it.
At Ameritech College of Healthcare, we want all of our students to be as informed about their programs and future careers as possible before they enroll. Because their handiwork is seen more often than their production process, we’ve compiled a typical day in the life of a dental lab technician.
6:30AM: Wake up and prepare for work
Obviously, when your alarm goes off as a dental lab technician will depend on the length of your commute, and how much morning time you like to yourself before you head into the office. Dental lab technology, though, attracts some people for how ubiquitous it is. Wherever there’s a dentist, you rarely have to travel far to find a dental lab. With labs in every city and almost every town, ideally you’ll live close to yours.
9:00AM: Review the day’s cases
You’ll greet your lab-mates, probably pour yourself a cup of coffee, and then sit down at your own work station to look over the cases of the day. Dental lab technicians have to be highly organized, with a schedule outlining all of the dentist’s prescriptions and orders. Usually, at the very start of your day you’ll review what deadlines are impending, and what progress you’ve made on larger cases. After deciding what case to focus on, you’ll assemble your materials, the tools and porcelains required for that specific project.
Related Resource: 7 Qualities Every Dental Lab Technician Needs
9:15AM: Begin fabricating a crown
If you’re just starting a new crown, it’s likely going to take you the whole day, so up until lunch you’ll probably build up your cases with the porcelain you’ve chosen for its shade, and then fire it in your furnace. It begins with the mold of the patient’s teeth you’ve received from the dentist, which you’ll fill with whatever material you’re using for the crown. At Ameritech, we train our students to use a variety of materials, since each patient’s mouth may have different needs for coloration and tensile strength. Once you’ve chosen the material and prepared it, you’ll fire it to create the crown, and depending on the material set it aside to cool.
12:30PM: Lunch with other dental lab techs
Especially early in your career, you’ll probably work in a lab alongside other DLTs, though it isn’t uncommon for more senior dental lab techs to run their own small labs as sole proprietors—and employees. In the event that you do have lab-mates, you’ll probably choose to eat together, since they’re probably at a similar stage of work. Dental lab technology attracts workers who enjoy autonomy and don’t mind working alone, but over weeks, and months, and years, you’ll develop relationships with everyone in your lab, and eating lunches together, like regular meetings, is a good time to enjoy each other’s company.
Related Resource: 10 Ways to Increase Your Productivity in the Dental Lab
1:00PM: Contour, grind, stain, and glaze the crown
Many afternoons will be devoted to finishing the fabrication of any crowns you started in the morning. Given the necessary precision of every piece you fabricate, this will often require your whole afternoon—and may even spill over into the next day. Once your crown has cooled, you’ll have to work at it, contouring and grinding to ensure it will fit perfectly over the patient’s tooth. At this stage, you may call and consult the dentist to avoid back-and-forth exchanges of the crown, which are common but time-consuming. It’s often said the work of a DLT resembles that of a sculptor, but you have to use the skills of a painter too. Once you’re confident you have the shape correct, you’ll use images of the patient’s teeth to stain the crown, so it appears perfectly natural.
5:30PM: Prepare for tomorrow
As you end your day, you’ll clean your work station and may set up the tools and materials you anticipate needing for tomorrow’s cases. If it’s the end of the week, typically you should inventory all of your materials to see what orders you’ll need to place soon—or report to the manager in charge of them. One of the job perks of being a dental lab tech is the 8-hour workday. There may be times you have to stay a few minutes extra, but there’s never work to take home with you. At the end of the day, you’re done, which frees up your evenings and weekends to spend time with family, friends, or any hobbies until the next workday begins.
Obviously, a typical day in the life of a dental lab technician changes with every lab and specialty, but the schedule above gives a pretty clear snapshot of what your life as a DLT would look like. If this kind of work and schedule appeals to you, contact us today about becoming a certified dental lab technician. Just request more information here. We’d love to hear from you!