A dental scanner with a 3D rendering of teeth

Dental Technologists: The Creators of Your Dental Appliances

Have you ever wondered who makes the dental appliances that replace, restore, and align your teeth? If you've had an impression of your mouth made by your dental professional and came back for your next appointment to find they have a bridge, a crown, or another appliance that's been tailor-made specifically to help improve the look, function, and health of your mouth, you may be curious where it was made. These devices are impressive – you could almost view some of these small, functional creations as art if they weren't so necessary for your wellbeing, too.

So who are these craftspeople behind the curtain, toiling night and day to fix the world's teeth? They are dental technologists (also called dental technicians or dental lab technicians), and we'll tell you all about them so you can better understand where that masterpiece in your mouth came from.

Who Are Dental Technicians?

After your dentist makes a dental impression of your mouth, they either send it off to a lab, or they may even have a certified dental technician (CDT) that works in their office who can create prosthetics for faster turnaround time. In either case, the dental technician has specialized training to create prostheses to help improve your life quality by restoring or retaining your natural smile.

The dental technician will collaborate with your dentist to design whatever safe device your oral health requires and may use computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) techniques.

Certified dental technicians can choose from six specialties:

  • Complete Dentures
  • Partial Dentures
  • Crown and Bridge
  • Ceramics
  • Orthodontics
  • Implants

The cost of these devices varies greatly depending on the time, work, and materials that go into each one.

What are dental crowns and tooth bridges?

What Type of Education Do Dental Technicians Need?

Most programs require two years of study to receive an associate degree in dental technology. Certificate programs are also available that don't require that length of time.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is a division of the American Dental Association that grants trade schools, community colleges, universities, and technical schools with program accreditation. Currently, there are 14 programs accredited nationally by CODA.

The Need for Dental Technologists

Due to constant advances, dental technology is a rapidly changing field. And with increased knowledge about the importance of practicing good oral hygiene and consistent improvements in treatment options, people are keeping their teeth longer than ever before. One would think that would decrease the need for as many dental technologists, but according to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 48 percent of adults ages 20 to 64 retain all their teeth. That leaves a large percentage of the population that still needs dental technicians' expertise for teeth replacement, and anyone who holds onto their teeth may still need crowns or orthodontics.

Now you have a good idea who makes the incredible devices that help maintain the health of your mouth. By practicing good oral hygiene, you can avoid the need for most of a dental technologist's creations. Still, if you do end up needing them for one reason or another – it's good to know they come from well-trained, certified professionals who work closely with your dentist to fulfill your individual needs. And whatever it is that a dental technologist makes for your mouth's look, function, and health, we hope it makes you smile.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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