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Dental Technician

Kaihangarau Niho

Alternative titles for this job

Dental technicians create and repair devices for the treatment, replacement and protection of damaged, badly positioned or missing teeth.

Pay

Dental technicians with up to four years’ experience usually earn

$38K-$48K per year

Senior dental technicians with more than four years’ experience usually earn

$48K-$70K per year

Source: New Zealand Institute of Dental Technologists, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a dental technician are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for dental technicians varies depending on experience, and whether you work in the public or private sector.

  • New dental technicians earn from $38,000 a year.
  • After two years you can expect to earn between $38,000 and $48,000.
  • With four or more years' experience, you can earn between $48,000 and $70,000 or more. 

Source: New Zealand Institute of Dental Technologists, 2017. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Dental technicians work from a mould of a client's mouth made by a dentist or a clinical dental technician, and custom-make a range of appliances for the mouth, including:

  • crowns (covers for broken or damaged teeth)
  • dentures
  • removable orthodontic appliances (plates with wires to straighten teeth)
  • mouthguards
  • splints for broken or cracked jawbones
  • anti-snoring devices
  • teeth-whitening trays.

Skills and knowledge

Dental technicians need to have knowledge of:

  • the structure and functions of the teeth, jaw and mouth
  • different dental equipment, methods and materials
  • modelling, shaping and sculpting
  • chemistry and general science.

Those running their own business also need small business skills.

Working conditions

Dental technicians:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may be required to do some evening and weekend work
  • work in dental laboratories.

What's the job really like?

Graham Simpson

Graham Simpson

Clinical Dental Technician

Graham Simpson's favourite part of his work as a clinical dental technician is crafting a pair of dentures. "I enjoy the bench work – the fine techniques and the finesse of it all – it's very fussy sort of work," he says.

Combining technical skills with patient satisfaction

"You need to take into account what the patient wants as well as the appearance and function of the teeth. 

"People are conscious of their teeth and how they look, so a tooth broken off a denture can be absolute panic for some people."

Getting to know patients part of the job

Working with patients is an aspect of the job Graham enjoys. “You learn a lot about people because patients will often tell you their life history in a half-hour appointment.

"The best story I've ever heard is the one about the scrub cutter who took his teeth out to eat his lunch. He put them down on a log and a weka came up beside him and grabbed his teeth and ran off into the bush!"

What's hot

  • The satisfaction of making a product from start to finish.
  • The opportunity to be creative.
  • Being able to start your own business.

What's not

  • The lower salary compared with other dental professions.
  • Dealing with emergency dental repair work.

Entry requirements

To become a dental technician you need to complete a Bachelor of Dental Technology from the University of Otago.

You also need to be registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand, and hold an annual practising certificate.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.

Secondary education

To enter tertiary training you need to have NCEA Level 3. Useful subjects include chemistry, biology, physics, maths and health education. 

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

To specialise in an area of dental technology, such as clinical dental technology, you need to complete postgraduate study at the University of Otago.

Personal requirements

Dental technicians need to be:

  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • patient
  • practical
  • good at planning and problem-solving
  • creative.

Useful experience

Useful experience for dental technicians includes:

  • work in the dental services industry, such as dental assisting
  • any work requiring fine hand-eye co-ordination, such as making precision models or jewellery.

Physical requirements

Dental technicians need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination.

Registration

Dental technicians need to be registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand, and hold an annual practising certificate.

Find out more about training

University of Otago - Faculty of Dentistry
(03) 479 7019 - dentistry@otago.ac.nz - www.otago.ac.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Number of factors contribute to shortage of dental technicians

According to the Dental Council of New Zealand, 402 dental technicians work in New Zealand, with 222 working as clinical dental technicians. It is the smallest profession in the dental industry. The next largest dental profession is dental hygienist, with 941 workers.  

There are not enough dental technicians to meet demand. The shortage is due to:

  • New Zealand's growing and ageing population, which means increasing demand for dental technicians to make dental appliances
  • growing popularity of cosmetic dentistry – dental technicians are needed to prepare crowns and veneers for cosmetic procedures
  • too few people training for the role.

Previous practical experience helpful for graduates

Many employers prefer graduates who have some hands-on experience, as well as academic training. This means your chances of securing a full-time job after you graduate are best if you do part-time dental technician work while studying. You can approach local employers and ask if they have any positions available.

Dental technicians commonly self-employed

Many dental technicians are self-employed.

They may also work for:

  • dental laboratories in large public hospitals
  • private dental laboratories
  • the New Zealand Defence Force.

Sources

  • Dental Council of New Zealand, 'Annual Report 2017', accessed October 2017, (www.dcnz.org.nz).
  • Ireland, J, secretary, New Zealand Institute of Dental Technologists, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Dental technicians may set up their own businesses, work in research and development with international dental companies, become sales representatives and technical advisers for international companies, or teach at the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry. 

Dental technicians may specialise in the role of:

Clinical Dental Technician
Clinical dental technicians make full dentures, partial dentures and other oral devices, and work directly with patients to provide these.
Hiraina Banks working at a bench, crafting a pair of dentures

Hiraina Banks making a pair of dentures

Last updated 5 March 2019