How To Become a Dental Technician (Plus Salary and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are many support roles in dentistry that help patients have better dental health and improve their quality of life. Dental technicians are specialists in this field who create dental appliances for patients who require them. If you're interested in joining this career, it's useful to understand the steps you can take to get started. In this article, we discuss how to become a dental technician, plus the average salary for this job and the skills that can help you succeed.

Related: How To Become a Dental Assistant in 4 Steps

How to become a dental technician

To learn how to become a dental technician, consider the following steps:

1. Complete a dental technology training course

The most basic requirement for most dental technician jobs is a diploma from a vocational dental technology course. One option is the Diploma of Dental Technology from a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) provider that offers courses in this field. These programs typically last two years and involve studying subjects like local dental policies and procedures and how to take impressions of patients' mouths.

To get started in a TAFE dental technology program, you can pay a class fee and complete the Core Skills Profile for Adults (CSPA) to determine your skill level in reading, writing and numeracy. Once you're registered for the program, you can participate full-time or part-time to finish your courses and receive your diploma, but part-time participation may extend the program past two years.

Related: Vocational Training: Definition and Different Types

2. Enter an apprenticeship or trainee program

Another option for starting your dental technician career is to find an apprenticeship or trainee program that accepts applicants with little experience in the field. Apprenticeships are a good idea if you want to start working before you can finish a dental technology course, but you must often stay in the apprenticeship for longer before employers decide to hire you in an independent dental technician role.

Still, you can learn the same skills and gain on-the-job experience as an apprentice or trainee, and you can also pursue a vocational certification part-time from a program provider. Each apprenticeship or trainee program may differ based on your location and the employer offering this program, so be sure to check the listing for each opportunity carefully during your search.

3. Pursue a bachelor's degree

Pursuing a bachelor's degree in dental technology can help candidates enhance their applications, find more job opportunities and open their own laboratories as a dental technician. The dental technology bachelor's degree is available at typical universities and teaches students how valuable dental appliance skills plus clinical skills that help them succeed in this role. This degree is also a prerequisite for becoming a dental prosthetist, which is an advanced dental technology role that requires registering as a clinician.

It's important to find a school that offers the kind of dental technology program you want, so try to research different options near you before getting started. After you graduate from this program, you can begin working as a dental technician.

4. Apply for jobs

The final step to becoming a dental technician is to look for job listings and submit your application materials to employers. You can find listings for this role on online job boards, in dental clinics or from people in your network who you met during your training. If you gained experience in an apprenticeship or training program, you might get your first job as a dental technician at the same workplace. Otherwise, look for jobs that match your skills and create an application that shows employers what you learned during your training to become a dental technician.

What does a dental technician do?

A dental technician is a dental health professional who focuses on creating dental appliances from moulds and impressions of patients' mouths and teeth. They're vital to the tooth, gum and jaw health of patients who need mouth guards for sports or sleeping, veneers to protect damaged teeth and retainers after having braces. These professionals work with patients who have mouth differences, like cleft palates and irregular bite patterns, or those who need to protect their teeth from daily use.

Some typical duties a dental technician may perform include:

  • Receive dental moulds, models and impressions from a dentist or dental prosthetist

  • Use tools and wax to create physical replicas of patients' mouths and teeth

  • Construct dental appliances using various materials like plastic or metal

  • Adjust appliances based on dentists or dental prosthetist notes

  • Cleaning and polishing final appliances and devices

  • Applying safety standards like wearing gloves and sanitizing devices

  • Documenting appliance creation for dental records

Requirements to become a dental technician

There are no standard or national requirements to become a dental technician. Each employer decides their own educational, training and previous experience requirements for dental technician roles, so it's important to read each job listing carefully to make sure you fit the requirements. While there are no standard requirements or regulations for starting this job, most employers expect dental technician candidates to have either a vocational diploma, apprenticeship experience or a bachelor's degree.

Skills for a dental technician

The following skills can help you succeed in a role as a dental technician and perform the duties of your job well:

Communication

Communication is a valuable skill for dental technicians because they frequently need to meet with dentists or dental prosthetists to learn the requirements for a patient's dental appliance. You might use your communication skills in this job to listen to and understand a dental clinician's instructions and write detailed reports and accounts of the appliances you create and their purpose for patient records. To improve your communication, try to listen well and learn to speak and write clearly without overwhelming your audience with extra information.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Manual dexterity

It's important to have good manual dexterity in this role because you often have to use hand tools to craft well-fitted dental appliances for patients. Many of the tools you might use as a dental technician are small and require steady movements to ensure each appliance fits the mouths of patients comfortably so it can work effectively to improve their oral health. Practise your manual dexterity by using your technician's tools on non-important projects and doing hand exercises that help you have better stability and range of motion.

Precision

Another good skill for dental technicians is precision, which involves paying attention to details so you can make the most precise dental appliances for each patient's individual needs. Being precise at work allows you to make appliances like mouth guards, dentures and other fitted dental pieces that improve a patient's quality of life and help them keep their teeth, mouth and jaws safe. Pay close attention to details and complete your work slowly and thoughtfully to improve your precision skills.

Concentration

Concentration is a useful skill to have this field because you may need to focus on one project for long periods of time until it's complete. This is important because many dental appliances require specific shapes, sizes and features to work properly for patients, so it's a good idea to concentrate on each one you make to ensure they all meet their requirements. You can get better at concentrating by giving yourself short breaks after each project and keeping a checklist of the requirements for each dental appliance to keep yourself on track.

Dental anatomy

Understanding dental anatomy is a vital ability for dental technicians to be able to craft accurate dental appliances that fit patients and keep them safe. This skill allows you to read models of teeth and mouths and understand the requirements for a dental appliance as outlined by a dental clinician. Study programs and training courses can help you improve your knowledge of dental anatomy and give you the skills necessary to perform well in this job.

Critical thinking

Being able to think critically helps you solve problems in the workplace and adjust your methods to create usable dental appliances when patients need them. One situation in which you might use critical thinking is if you make a mistake while creating an appliance and have to decide whether to fix it or start over. You can further develop your critical thinking skills by doing research to prepare for different situations and creating multiple potential solutions for problems you encounter.

Read more: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions and Examples

Average salary of a dental technician

The average salary for dental technicians is $61,026 per year, but this number may change depending on where you work and your level of experience. For example, apprentice dental technicians may make slightly less than average, while dental technicians with a bachelor's degree may make slightly more. Each job for which you apply may have different salary expectations, so consider these differences as you find opportunities during your job search for this role.

Please note that none of the organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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