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Dental Technology: The Professionals Who Restore Smiles

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Dental technology is a branch of the dental sciences that includes dental technicians, lab scientists, metallurgists and other compound specialists who work to recreate dental anatomy. Whether the natural oral environment is disrupted by disease, accidents or other alterations, skilled professionals can help restore the function, health and look of their patients' mouths.

Who Are Dental Technicians?

Dental technicians use their artistic and scientific talents to construct prostheses after obtaining a prescription and dental impressions from a licensed dental professional. By using materials available in the industry, dental technicians can improve the quality of life for patients by restoring or retaining their natural smiles through the replacement of missing or damaged teeth and gums.

The dental technician collaborates with the dental office to design safe reconstructive devices, such as crowns, bridges, full dentures, partial dentures, ceramics or veneers, orthodontic appliances and implants. The cost of these devices varies greatly depending on the time, work and materials that go into each one. For dentures, in addition to the initial purchase price, any repairs must also be factored into the overall price tag.

What Type of Education Do Dental Technicians Need?

To award an associate degree in dental technology, most educational programmes require two years of study. During this two-year programme, students become experts in the creation of dental restorations, appliances for tooth movement, or any one of the various modalities for tooth replacement that can be fitted onto dental implants or natural tooth structures.

A dental technician is formally trained at a recognised institution to an NQF level 6 qualification in dental technology, and is registered with the South African Dental Technicians Council.

Dental Lab Technology in Action

Dental technology is a rapidly changing field. Through new CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) techniques and improved treatment options, patients are keeping their teeth longer in life. According to a survey 48 percent of adults aged 20 to 64 had retained all their teeth in 2011-2012. Nevertheless, that means a large percentage of the population still needs the expertise of dental technicians.