Dental technicians are skilled craftspeople who make and repair dental restorations such as dentures, bridges, crowns, fillings, braces and other orthodontic correction appliances. They follow the directions or prescriptions of a dentist and do not deal with patients themselves.
When a denture has to be made, the dentist obtains impressions of the patient’s gums and palate, from which the technician makes a model. After this has been modified for comfort, the final denture is cast in an acrylic material or artificial resin. The appliance made often affects the appearance of the patient, which means that the work needs to be very precise and neat.
First they need to read prescriptions or specifications and examine models or impressions to determine the design of the dental products to be constructed. They create a model of the patient’s mouth by pouring plaster into a dental impression and allowing the plaster to set. They melt metals or mix plaster, porcelain or acrylic pastes and pour materials into moulds or over frameworks to from dental prostheses or apparatus.
Dental technicians fabricate, alter or repair dental devices, such as dentures, crowns, bridges, inlays or appliances for straightening teeth. They prepare metal surfaces for bonding with porcelain to create artificial teeth, using small hand tools, and load newly constructed teeth into porcelain furnaces to bake the porcelain onto the metal framework. They place tooth models on apparatus that mimics bite and movement of patient’s jaw to evaluate functionality of model.
Other tasks are to test appliances for conformance to specifications and accuracy of occlusion, using articulators and micrometers, and to prepare wax bite blocks and impression trays for use, mould wax over denture setups to from the full contours of artificial gums, rebuild or replace linings and wire sections or missing teeth to repair dentures. They apply porcelain paste or wax over prosthesis frameworks or setups, using brushes and spatulas, and fill chipped or low spots in surfaces of devices, using acrylic resins. They also need to train or supervise other dental technicians or dental laboratory bench workers.
Dental technicians may be generalists and perform all types of dental laboratory work or may specialise in one of the following areas:
- Crown and bridgework
- Metal framework
How to Enter
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate
What to Study
Diploma: The dental technologist can follow the course in Dental Services offered by DUT, Dental Assisting – CPUT, CUT and TUT, Dental Sciences offered by Wits and Dental Technology offered by CPUT, DUT and TUT.
Prospective students are subject to selection. Training involves two or more years of academic (formal) training, followed by six months’ in-service training.
Candidates must, however, obtain the National Higher Diploma in Dental Technology (N.H.Dip: Dent Tech) before they may practise this profession. This is a one-year full-time course, the first semester comprising in-service training and the second semester, formal training. Then an admission examination set by the SA Council for Dental Technicians must be passed for registration with the Council before practising professionally.
Advanced one-year courses lead to the Masters Diploma and the Laureates in Technology. All dental technicians must register with the South African Dental Technicians’ Council.
- private and commercial dental laboratories
- hospitals and clinics
- government departments
- manufacturers of dental laboratory equipment and materials
- self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can set up own practice
S A Dental Technicians Council
P O Box 995
The Dental Technology Association of South Africa
P O Box 95340
105 Club Ave
Tel: (012)-460-1155 Fax: (012) 460-9481
South African Dental Association (SADA) Private Bag 1
Tel: (011) 484-5288 Fax: (011) 642-5718
Toll Free: 0800 11 07 25
- try to obtain vacation work in a dental laboratory
- make an appointment to speak to a dental technician about this type of career and ask permission to observe them at work