Is dental laboratory technology the right career path for you? We are here to help you make a more informed decision. Find out everything you need to know about the average dental technician salary, job requirements and opportunities, as well as information about top paying industries and areas for this occupation in the US today.
The Average Dental Technician Salary in the US
Currently, a dental technician in the United States can earn between $24,867 and $62,789 annually. According to recent statistics, the average dental technician salary is $42,129. Among the aspects that have a great impact on how much a dental technician brings home every year, work location takes first place, followed by years of experience and skills.
What are the Benefits of Being a Dental Technician?
Dental technicians are among those lucky professionals who can earn a little extra cash from bonuses and profit sharing. They can add up to their annual wage bonuses up to $1,973, and a profit sharing between $1,000 and $2,543.
As regards other benefits, more than half of the individuals reporting to Pay Scale have medical cover, around 40% are provided with dental insurance and 20% have vision insurance as well.
What Does a Dental Technician Do?
Dental technicians or dental laboratory technicians provide dental prosthetic services. They work with specific instruments, hand tools (files, polishers) and materials (wax, plastic, acrylics, porcelain) to make dental appliances ordered by dentists. They are also responsible for dental restoration work.
Some dental technicians use computer software either to create models for the appliances they create, or to get impressions from patients.
Even if there is no formal profession training required to become a dental technician, they can specialize in six areas of expertise and perform more complex tasks. These are: complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, ceramics, crowns and bridges, and orthodontic appliances.
Dental technicians work with dentists and oral surgeon to find solutions to dental problems, but the typical work setting is not a dental office. They do not interact with patients, and normally perform only in laboratories.
What Are the Main Tasks of a Dental Technician?
A dental technician produces dental constructions or repairs existing dental prosthesis.
- Create dentures, crowns, bridges, implants, veneers or other dental appliances.
- Follow the specifications of dentists.
- Evaluate problems and find solutions.
- Analyze and adjust molds of patient’s teeth for accurate results.
- Choose appropriate materials according to the prescription or treatment plan made by dentists.
- Use lab instruments and tools such as grinders, files and polishers to polish and shape the appliances they create.
- Restore dental constructions and appliances according to patient’s needs.
- Spot imperfections in the devices they create and repair them.
- Work well with hands.
- Pay attention to details so that the resulted structures have a natural appearance and function.
- Follow safety requirements.
- Clean the equipment they use.
Dental technicians are not required to undergo specific educational programs. However, there are minimum training conditions in order to perform in the field, as well as optional certifications available.
Most dental technicians in the US hold a high school diploma. This is based on the fact that the majority of dental lab technicians gain experience and skills on the job.
Even so, employers generally prefer dental technicians who have a higher degree or certification in the field. These are also needed for more complex operations and dental structures, such as orthodontic appliances.
Certifications & Licenses
Dental technicians can gain more complex professional skills by following an accredited dental laboratory technician program.
Also, there are organizations who provide certifications in the field, such as The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC). Certified Dental Technicians (CDT) are mainly found in specialized areas such as implants, ceramics and orthodontic appliances. NBC also provides a Certificate of Competency in each specific skill. Dental technicians are required, in this case, to pass a written and practical exam on the skill they want to specialize in.
To be certified as a dental technician, a minimum of 5-year experience in dental technology is required or having completed a dental laboratory technician program.
For more information on certification requirements and exams, you can visit the NBC official website.
Dental Technician Skills
As dental technicians operate with complex laboratory instruments and machines they need to understand how different tools work and learn to use them appropriately. If you consider choosing dental technology as a field of practice, make sure you have the following skills:
- Technical Skills
- Attention to Details
- Analytical Skills
Dental technicians generally work on a full time basis.
Dental Lab Technician Salary by Industry
Typically, a dental technician works in a laboratory. But the work settings for such professionals are more diverse than that. They are found in offices of dentists or other practitioners, in dental schools and colleges, or in health care institutions. Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories are, though, the most profitable choices if you consider applying for a dental technician job.
Here are the top paying industries for this occupation:
|Industry||Hourly Pay Rate||Average Annual Salary|
|Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories||$32.23||$67,040|
|Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)||$26.21||$54,520|
|Offices of Other Health Practitioners||$23.21||$48,280|
|Offices of Dentists||$19.69||$40,960|
|Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||$19.40||$40,360|
Dental Technician Salary by State
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest employment level for dental technicians is recorded in California, where such professionals can earn $19.52 per hour. However, higher salaries are found in Alaska and Massachusetts, where dental technicians make an average of $26, and $25, every hour. If you want to aim high, relocate in Rochester, NY, where you can earn up to $60,000 per year.
Here is a summary of useful information provided by the US BLS:
Highest Concentration of Dental Technician Jobs in the US
|State||Hourly Pay Rate||Average Annual Salary|
Top Paying States for Dental Technicians
|State||Hourly Pay Rate||Average Annual Salary|
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Dental Technicians
|Metropolitan area||Hourly Pat Rate||Average Annual Salary|
|Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA NECTA Division||$28.34||$58,940|
|Idaho Falls, ID||$27.36||$56,910|
|New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division||$25.42||$52,870|
|Durham-Chapel Hill, NC||$25.06||$52,120|
|Nassau-Suffolk, NY Metropolitan Division||$24.61||$51,200|
Job Prospects for Dental Technicians
According to BLS, the employment level for this profession is projected to grow with 7 % until 2022. This means that 5,600 new jobs are made available over a period of ten years, which is considered a slower growth of job opportunities as compared to other occupations.
Quick Job Facts
|Average Dental Technician Salary as for May 2015||$42K|
|Entry-level Average Dental Technician Salary (0-5 years)||$28K|
|Mid-level Career Average Dental Technician Salary (5-10 years)||$34K|
|Experienced Average Dental Technician Salary (10 – 20 years)||$39K|
|Late Career Average Dental Technician Salary (>20 years)||$44K|
|Education Requirements||High school Diploma (minimum)Higher Degree (preferred)|
|Certification & Licenses||CDT issued by NBC (optional)Certification of Competency (optional)|
|Top Paying State||Alaska ($54K)|
|Work Hours||40 hours/ week (full time)|
|Job Prospects||7% employment growth between 2012 and 2022|