Dental Technicians – The Unsung Heroes of Restorative Dentistry 

It often goes unnoticed among many dentists precisely what kind of work is put into the production of dental implants and dentures. Practitioners take an impression of the patient using a disposable impression tray; send the impression to the laboratory, and then a week or more later an abutment, crown or bridge will arrive for the dentist to apply. The process that resulted in the finished implant remains a mystery, both to clinicians and the patients who ultimately benefit from the procedure.

A dental technician is responsible for constructing custom made restorative and dental appliances upon prescription from a clinician. The technician will receive a prescription and dental impression from a dentist, and filling the impression with gypsum dental stone can create a replica of a patient’s oral anatomy, known as a dental model. The model can then be used as the basis for the construction of a custom appliance.

Most of these appliances will usually include a crown, bridge or abutment constructed from some form of glass-ceramic, which provides good durability and longevity while having startlingly convincing aesthetics compared to real tooth enamel. Dental technicians use a number of techniques to build the ceramic up on an appliance, usually using a small brush to apply the material in layers in its liquid form, allowing each layer to cure before moving onto the next. Technicians can apply different formulations of the ceramic in order to properly match the shade and translucency of the surrounding teeth.

The dental technician plays a vital role in restorative dentistry. However, a number of dental laboratories in the UK have become concerned about the future of the profession, with dwindling numbers of trainee technicians starting out in the industry in recent years.

Being a dental technician can be an extremely rewarding career option, offering laboratory employees the chance to not only improve the quality of life of patients with their work, but also the chance to do something creative that the technician can take real pride in; building a new tooth from scratch is not a common skill, after all. Dental technology is however an extremely specialised area of expertise, which is only accessible once prospective technicians have undergone a fulltime 3-year course.

There are not many educational establishments within the UK currently offering courses in Dental Technology, with only two in the South East. Lambeth College runs a BTEC Level 3 course in Dental Technology, while Queen Mary, University of London offer an undergraduate BEng (Hons) in Dental Materials. These courses can be extremely demanding and have a high dropout rate, which is not aided by an overall lack of interest among potential students; 35 students enrolled on the Dental Technology course at Lambeth College in September of 2011, with only 12 students remaining on the course by the following February.

To exacerbate the issue, newly graduated dental technicians find it very difficult to find relevant work experience, with many entering a commercial environment not realising the time constraints within which they must build appliances, leading to a high percentage of technicians being unable to keep up. With all these factors combined, there is a very real concern that there will be a severe shortage of dental technicians within the next decade.

Hoping to reverse this trend, CosTech Elite’s® dedicated team of dental restoration and prosthetic experts are working in conjunction with the UK Department of Education to provide training for dental technicians in a hands-on commercial laboratory environment. With prospective technicians becoming used to the daily rigour and demands of working to realistic deadlines as part of their training, CosTech Elite hopes to better equip the next generation of dental laboratory staff for a successful career in building appliances.

CosTech Elite is also working toward increasing awareness and interest in the dental technician role by approaching local secondary schools and attending careers options exhibitions for young people. Additionally, CosTech Elite will be opening its doors to both dental practitioners and the general public so that dentists, patients and students alike can learn more about the integral part that dental technicians play in restorative dentistry. Public open days will allow first hand viewing of CosTech Elite’s laboratory facilities and headquarters in Gravesend, where visitors can meet the technicians and gain insight into the job. CosTech Elite is also offering free CPD courses existing technicians and clinicians with a myriad of guest speakers.

Dental technicians play an invaluable role in the creation of implants, crowns and dentures, and the dental industry as a whole, as well as the care available to patients across the UK, would suffer tremendously without the work that they do. With numbers of training dental technicians dwindling in recent years, it is vitally important that dental laboratories and educational establishments work together in order to reverse this trend, and preserve the future of restorative dentistry in the UK.

For more information on how Costech Elite® can help you, call 01474 320 076 or email: info@costech.co.uk