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Dental Lab Technician Careers: Job Duties, Education & Certification

Find out about dental lab technician training and careers.

hands fixing tooth in lab
Home » Specialties » Dental Lab Technician

Dental Lab Tech At a Glance

  • What you’ll do: As a dental lab technician, you’ll fill orders from dentists for a variety of dental appliances. You’ll work with sophisticated equipment and a broad range of materials to create tooth replacements that are realistic and aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional.
  • Where you’ll work: Commercial dental laboratories, private dental offices, hospitals (including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ hospitals), dental schools, dental manufacturers and suppliers, private practice
  • Degree you’ll need: 2-year dental lab technician program leading to an associate’s degree or certificate
  • Median annual salary: $42,110

Full Job Description

Using a dentists’ detailed written directions, and molds of a patient’s teeth or oral soft tissues, you’ll make the following items:

  • Full dentures for patients who are missing all of their teeth
  • Removable partial dentures or fixed bridges for those who are missing only one or a few teeth
  • Crowns, which cover the tooth and are designed to restore its original size and shape
  • Veneers, which are bonded to the tooth surface to improve the appearance of discolored, worn, chipped, or misaligned teeth
  • Orthodontic appliances and splints used to help straighten and protect teeth

Dental lab technicians can also specialize in one of five areas: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures and ceramics.

Dental Lab Technician Salaries by State

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following median annual salaries by state:

Dental Laboratory Technicians

National data

Median Salary: $42,110

Bottom 10%: $27,060

Top 10%: $67,010

Projected job growth: 12.2%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $33,950 $22,540 $52,410
Alaska $41,390 $27,890 $72,540
Arizona $46,870 $29,590 $68,020
Arkansas $38,190 $26,450 $63,130
California $41,060 $27,080 $63,140
Colorado $52,360 $31,090 $66,770
Connecticut $46,640 $26,490 $77,160
Delaware $42,420 $28,400 $65,100
Florida $37,930 $22,120 $65,430
Georgia $42,850 $27,270 $63,980
Hawaii $39,570 $27,100 $52,560
Idaho $41,760 $28,290 $80,410
Illinois $46,580 $19,860 $69,770
Indiana $37,540 $24,050 $58,690
Iowa $42,180 $27,370 $63,110
Kansas $46,720 $27,700 $113,060
Kentucky $48,260 $32,450 $64,130
Louisiana $47,410 $28,560 $63,770
Maine $55,520 $27,730 $77,200
Maryland $40,450 $28,730 $61,520
Massachusetts $53,010 $35,370 $74,410
Michigan $44,830 $28,000 $69,550
Minnesota $42,570 $29,460 $62,350
Mississippi $39,710 $26,060 $61,720
Missouri $42,420 $27,320 $63,050
Montana $45,570 $32,770 $76,540
Nebraska $40,940 $24,650 $86,040
Nevada $39,840 $27,430 $61,120
New Hampshire $41,180 $32,510 $60,730
New Jersey $54,140 $33,670 $82,470
New Mexico $38,360 $29,330 $49,980
New York $52,940 $29,620 $101,770
North Carolina $45,210 $21,010 $72,220
North Dakota $42,210 $32,780 $61,330
Ohio $43,190 $26,540 $67,100
Oklahoma $41,560 $23,030 $62,680
Oregon $39,330 $26,000 $61,980
Pennsylvania $39,390 $24,780 $62,740
South Carolina $38,880 $24,980 $57,560
South Dakota $36,010 $25,290 $49,100
Tennessee $33,790 $25,790 $53,620
Texas $42,830 $26,150 $68,060
Utah $42,190 $24,230 $80,490
Virginia $52,900 $29,120 $81,730
Washington $47,710 $33,380 $66,010
West Virginia $44,090 $25,060 $67,470
Wisconsin $41,430 $28,680 $63,740

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2020 median salary; projected job growth through 2030. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Education

Although each program has unique entry requirements, a high school diploma or GED is a standard prerequisite for applying to an accredited dental lab technology program.

Some dental technicians begin careers without a college degree, but you’ll find it’s easiest to start your career by pursuing formal training through an accredited program. There are 2-year dental lab technician programs leading to an associate’s degree or certificate; a few 4-year bachelor’s programs are also available. These programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, technical colleges, universities and dental schools.

In addition to formal training, you’ll find the following skills will serve you well in your dental technician career:

  • Ability to do precision work with your hands
  • Ability to work independently
  • Attention to detail and aesthetics

Dental Lab Tech Certification

There is no license required for dental lab technicians, but optional certification is available. Certification recognizes a dental lab technician’s knowledge and technical skills. It involves passing an exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. In order to take the certification exam, you must have completed an accredited dental laboratory technology program and have had two years of professional experience, or, if you’ve been trained on the job or through a non-accredited program, you can take the exam after five years of work experience as a dental lab technician. Upon passing the exam, you become a Certified Dental Technician (CDT).

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics, Dental Laboratory Technicians.