Of all the healthcare occupations in the United States, one of the most overlooked does not involve direct patient contact and is generally more accessible in terms of cost and curriculum. If expensive student loans and heavy course loads are not within your plans, enrolling in a dental lab technician program can be a smart move.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that careers associated with dental care, which include hygienists, assistants and lab technicians, are expected to grow 20 percent from now until the year 2026. Florida is one of the states where dental laboratory technologists are in higher demand; the only state where more dental lab techs were employed in 2017 was California. This is a career where median hourly wages are just under $20, which means that you could make about $40,000 per year on average.
Dental laboratory technology is closely tied to the field of implant dentistry, which has been enjoying a wave of innovation in terms of advances in materials, digital imaging, and reconstructive techniques. Of all the specialties within the field of dentistry, dental laboratories and implants are constantly evolving through innovation. What dental lab technicians are entrusted with is the actual shaping of the endosseous fixtures and prostheses that give patients the dentures they need for the purpose of proper nutrition, speech, complete breathing, and smiling.
Before getting into the criteria you should consider when evaluating your dental lab tech school choices, it helps to understand a little more about this professional field:
As technologists, dental lab techs are responsible for the production and adjustment of orthodontic appliances and devices that improve and correct the appearance and functionality of teeth. Appliances can be fixed, removable, functional, passive, or active; altogether, there are over a hundred appliances that orthodontists can prescribe to patients, and they may include:
As previously mentioned, dental lab technicians do not usually come into contact with patients unless they work in dental practices where they are directed to help patients with fitting removable appliances. Clinics are not the only places where these technologists can find employment; quite a few of them work for major laboratories and manufacturers where patients never visit, moreover, colleges may also hire dental lab techs to support academic or research programs.
Creating a crown, for example, is a process that requires skill and precise attention to detail. Something that dental lab techs learn early on during the academic portion of their careers is that they essentially hold the mouths and smiles of patients in their hands. Something as simple as crowns, for example, starts with receiving documentation along with a mold of the patient’s teeth. The first artificial tooth is molded with special wax material, and this is purely structural; advanced clay materials are then used for coating and replacing the wax before a hardened tooth is formed. The coating that follows may contain hard minerals such as gold before the porcelain is prepared to match the unique anatomy of the tooth. One technician may spend the entire day working on a couple of crowns; for this reason, it is not unusual for an entire arch of teeth to take a few days to complete by the staff of a laboratory facility.
Smaller dental practices sometimes hire dental lab techs with the expectation that they also take on some dental assistant duties. It is generally easier for a technician to transition into assistant roles instead of the other way around.
Master dental technicians are typically laboratory managers and directors who have gained extensive experience in all the facets of implant and denture devices; moreover, these master technicians have completed many continuing education credits because this is a technological field on the move. Depending on the laboratory they work at, dental lab techs may learn about precision laser welding, special alloys, and other advanced fields of dental prosthesis technology. The artistry aspect of dental lab technology is crafting teeth that look incredibly natural and devices that have a holistic impact on the maxillofacial anatomy of patients.
What to Expect From Dental Lab Tech School
First of all, this a field of study that requires hands-on instruction in both classroom and laboratory settings; to this end, you will want to choose a school with campus locations near you. Florida National University is an accredited institution that operates a campus center in Hialeah, another one in Miami not far from Coral Way and the Turnpike, and a training center near Hialeah Gardens. If you are not familiar with the dental lab technician career, or if you want to check if you qualify for financial assistance, feel free to get in touch with one of our counselors.
FNU offers three career paths for dental lab techs: the 60-credit program is ideal for individuals who wish to learn all aspects of this profession. Students can complete this program in less than two years, but they can also choose flexible schedules if they are working and need more time to finish. This is an Associate of Science degree program that allows graduates to fully replicate human dentures with advanced materials; it is highly recommended for students who want to take their careers to a higher level and boost their earning potential.
Students who are already working in a dental clinic or who intend to get jobs at major production facilities such as Crown Medical in Doral or US Dental Depot in Fort Lauderdale can focus solely on dentures, crowns, bridges, and porcelain work. These are diploma careers that are not designed for academic transfers to other institutions, but they can be completed in about eight months and can greatly expand employment potential for the right candidates.
Depending on the course of study you choose, some of the courses you will take will focus on a prosthesis, working with porcelain materials to replicate the natural appearance of teeth, glazing, staining, marginal design, prosthodontics, and others. Naturally, dental anatomy is a must, and you can expect substantial hands-on instruction with laboratory instructors who will teach you how to craft appliances and how they can restore patients’ smiles. As for personal satisfaction within this career field, many dental lab techs who do not interact with patients nonetheless enjoy seeing photographs of bright smiles. The happiness and self-esteem gained by patients whose smiles are brought back with orthodontic treatment are very contagious, and this is certainly one of the best aspects of becoming a dental lab tech.
Florida National University is one of the Best Dental Lab Schools in Florida
In the end, the best dental lab tech school in South Florida is the one that adjusts to your life schedule without saddling you with a lot of debt. FNU is an accredited college where you can apply for financial aid and complete your dental lab tech education right here in South Florida. Our admissions counselors can provide you with more information about what you can expect from the Associate of Science Dental Laboratory Technology program.
If you are a veteran of the United States armed forces who served as a dental lab technician, you may want to look into an Associate of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene, also offered by FNU, a private college that has earned the designation of being a Military Friendly School. The combination of a dental lab technician who also has a dental hygienist degree could turn very lucrative for smart professionals who wish to manage dental clinics or get into research.