Orthodontic Technician

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Orthodontic Technician


Do you like the idea of building braces or retainers? Can you follow detailed directions to create a three-dimensional objects? Orthodontic technicians manufacture, alter, and repair orthodontic dental devices such as headgears, retainers, braces, neckgears and other appliances for straightening teeth. They fill orthodontists prescriptions and create dental devices.

Orthodontic technicians do not actually work with patients. A dentist orders the specific appliance from a technologist.
Following the orthodontist's orders, technicians make or repair the various devices prescibed by orthodontists to help straighten crooked teeth. Along with the instructions from a dentist usually comes a mould of a patient's mouth or teeth. The mould is imperative for the technician in order to create a properly fitting component. Since we all have differently shaped and sized teeth, without the proper measurements, the technician cannot do the correct job.

Here is a detailed example of what an orthodontic technician would do in making a retainer. Once the technician receives the mould, they create a model of the patients mouth by pouring plaster into the impression and allowing it to set. Next, they set the model on an apparatus that mimics the bite and movement of a persons jaw. The model serves as the basis of the prosthetic device. Technicians then examine the model, noting the size and shape of the adjacent teeth, as well as gaps within the gumline. Based upon these observations and the dentists specifications, technicians build and shape a wax retainer model, using small hand instruments called wax spatulas and wax carvers.

After they form the wax to form around the teeth, technicians attach a wire to the retainer or let the wax set with plastic. They will cook the piece so that it becomes hard and then adjust the shape with subsequent grinding and shaping to achieve a smooth finish.

Depending on the size and type of laboratory for which a technician works, some perform all stages of the work, whereas in larger labs, each technician performs only a few steps in the creation process.
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Daymar College
Career training since 1963.
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  Interests and Skills  
Orthodontic technicians need a high degree of manual dexterity, with an aptitude for fine mechanical work. They need artistic ability combined with an aptitude for engineering and design work. Technicians must be patient and have the difficult ability to concentrate and pay attention to fine detail. They need strong initiative and the ability to work within deadlines, along with good communication and interpersonal skills. Orthodontic technicians should enjoy analyzing prescriptions and taking a methodical approach to their work, working with tools and equipment at tasks that require precision, and finding solutions to problems.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Fabricate or repair orthodontic dental devices such as braces, headgear and retainers
  • Construct orthodontic appliances that are used to repair, replace or reposition teeth
  • Use small hand tools and rotary instruments, electric lathes, high-speed motorized equipment, drills, waxes, high-heat furnaces, and other specialized laboratory equipment
  • May train and supervise other technicians or laboratory workers in fabricating orthodontic devices
  • May perform supervisory and administrative functions for the orthodontic laboratory
  • Most orthodontic technicians work in laboratories and orthodontist's offices. They usually work eight-hour day shifts, but some labs have rotating shifts, meaning some might have to work evenings or weekends. They may be required to lift heavy items. Also, technicians must observe safety precautions when working with potentially hazardous materials.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Orthodontic technicians mainly work in orthodontic dental laboratories. Technicians will either own their own laboratory facilities, or work in small specialized laboratories or larger commercial ones. Those who teach at the technical level work for community colleges or hospitals.

  Long Term Career Potential  
For independent laboratory owners, it is a highly competitive field with success depending on the level of one's business initiative as well as technical skills. Advancement opportunities are limited, although orthodontic technicians may advance to supervisory positions in larger commercial laboratories. Orthodontic technicians may also consider going into jewelry making, as both crafts have very similar processes. Otherwise, technicians could go into dental and orthodontic equipment sales or teach at a technological institute.

  Educational Paths  
There is no process set in stone for becoming an orthodontic technician, however the completion of a college program in orthodontic or dental technology or four or more years of on-the-job training under the supervision of a technician is required. After the successful completion of a technical program, student must intern in a laboratory prior to successfully completing an examination. Contact the regulatory authority in your jurisdiction to obtain detailed information about licensure, registration, and fees.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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