7 Qualities Every Dental Lab Technician Needs
Dental lab technicians belong to a career field unlike just about any other. The work relies heavily on technology and artistry, but unlike graphic design and game development, it’s also tactile, requiring more than a little dexterity—and it’s medical. If you want to become a dental lab technician, you should know it requires a very specific set of skills, qualities, and (in some cases) personality traits. Some of them can be learned and developed; others are more innate. Not everyone can become a great dental lab technician, but for those who possess the following qualities, it can be a fulfilling and enriching career.
1. Artistic Instincts
Creativity is the most important quality for DLTs to possess. Your whole job is supporting dentists with lab technology, which primarily involves producing precisely fabricated crowns and bridges. It isn’t assembly-line work. You aren’t producing a daily quota of identical teeth. Every job is unique, because every patient’s teeth are different. Dental lab technicians have to craft individual bridges and crowns, using a variety of materials, and so it can feel more like an Intro to Sculpting class than most work in the medical field.
2. Attention to Detail
Because every patient has unique dental work, dental lab techs must have an eye for detail. The slightest groove or angle can prevent a crown from fitting properly, and creating bridges requires attention to not just neighboring teeth but the shape of the mouth. Proper dental aesthetics, of course, also require detailed understanding of a patient’s teeth and their imperfections, so smiles look totally natural. You can’t ever be sloppy. Dental lab technology is Type A work, through and through.
3. Hand-Eye Coordination
It’s also, obviously, intricate work. Dental lab technicians work with a wide array of tools, programs, and materials, all of which require a great amount of dexterity. This can be learned through practice, but you’ll have some advantage if you have some practice at using your hands. Learning instruments, participating in certain sports, and even playing video games can all give you a boost.
Related Resource: Exercises to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
Dental Lab Technology is a constantly changing field. Every day, it seems, there are new developments, new methods, and new technological innovations. Part of being a great DLT requires knowledge of these trends, which requires some research skills. When you enter the field, you’ll have a strong base knowledge of the industry, but to remain on the cutting edge, you need to educate yourself on these changes and innovations regularly.
5. Color Perception
Similar to artistic instincts and attention to detail, dental lab techs have to have an eye for color. Especially when working on prosthetic dentistry projects, you have to be able to fabricate pieces that match the hues and tones of every patient’s teeth. The range of colors in dental work is expansive, so to create good work, you need to be able to see and replicate the unique colors of every tooth.
6. Independent Work Drive
Some dental labs are huge, with dozens of technicians working in shifts and taking meals and breaks together. More common, though, are smaller groups of two or three technicians, working independently. Workers who require a great amount of oversight and accountability may struggle as dental lab technicians. For those who thrive off quiet and solitude, though, and who hold themselves accountable to finishing tasks and deadlines, it’s fulfilling work that ensures few disruptions.
7. Entrepreneurial Ambitions
All right, you don’t need this to be a great dental lab tech, but it could help your career if you ever want to branch out on your own—which many DLTs do. After graduating from school, most dental lab technicians work in labs to gain experience and expertise in all areas of the field. Beyond that, the career path is up to you. Demand for dental lab technology isn’t forecasted to decrease, especially not with a growing number of aging Americans in need of dental work. If you possess the previous six qualities and also have ambitions of owning your own business, you could become a great dental lab technician with your own small business.