Dental technician


Dental technicians are essential members of the dental team, supporting the clinical work of a registered Dentist. They manufacture, repair and advise on custom made dental appliances, such as dentures, crowns, bridges, implants or dental braces prescribed by dentists or other qualified dental care professionals. Dental technicians are also known as dental technologists.

Clinical dental technicians are members of a group of dental care professionals (DCPs) who work in a dental team. They specialise in the manufacture and fitting of removable dental appliances. Working directly with patients, they can provide full dentures to those with no natural teeth. They can also work with registered Dentists to provide partial dentures, mouth guards and anti-snoring devices.

With experience and specialist training, dental technicians can become clinical dental technicians.

The Role(s)

NHS Scotland dental technician

A dental technician designs and constructs dental appliances, under the prescription of a registered dentist. A patient may require a dental appliance to replace missing teeth and improve their speech, appearance or ability to chew. Dental appliances can be manufactured using a range of materials such as gold, stainless steel, titanium, porcelain and plastic.

In NHSScotland, dental technicians work in laboratories in hospitals or in the independent sector.

After assessing the patient, dentists prescribe the most suitable appliance to meet their needs. The patient’s prescription, along with a dental impression, is sent to the lab for reference. The dental technician then constructs the appliance, ensuring the best possible fit and performance.

As a dental technician, your work would come under one of three different types:

  • Removable prosthodontics: This area of dental technology would require you to design and construct complete and partial dentures to replace the patient’s missing natural teeth.
  • Fixed prosthodontics: Under the prescription of a dentist, you would construct a custom made dental appliance, such as a crown or bridge, where the patient’s teeth cannot be reasonably restored. It removes the need for a partial denture, but is only an option if the supporting tissue is healthy.
  • Orthodontics: You would produce removable dental appliances, known as braces. The braces are used to correct or make adjustments to the positioning of teeth in the mouth, which are adjusted over time improve appearance and jaw function.

Clinical dental technician

Registered clinical dental technicians are qualified to carry out clinical examinations to assess the patient’s oral health and suitability for treatment. This will also include the taking of a detailed dental history and relevant medical history. They must also be able to distinguish between normal and abnormal oral tissues and related underlying structures, making referrals to other dental care professionals where appropriate.

As a clinical dental technician, you would:

  • carry out a clinical assessment and oral examination of the patient’s current oral health
  • take and process radiographs and other images related to the provision of removable dental appliances
  • undertake clinical and technical procedures related to the provision and fitting of removable dental appliances
  • provide appropriate dental advice to patients

Skills, Interests and Abilities

To work as a dental technician or clinical dental technician, useful skills will include:

  • technical and practical skills
  • patience, determination and a positive attitude
  • excellent attention to detail
  • strong communication skills
  • teamworking skills
  • committed to the wellbeing of patients
  • professional with an excellent work ethic

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to interpret and understand technical instructions
  • artistic abilities
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods

Entry Requirements

To practice as a dental technician in NHSScotland, you must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). You will need to study an approved pre-registration programme, which can take 1-2 years full-time or 3 years part-time.

To study dental technology (DipHE) at University of the Highlands and Islands you will need 2 SQA Highers at grade C or above, normally including a science subject. A pass in SQA National 4 English is also required, if English is not achieved at SQA Higher grade C.

Students must also be employed as a trainee dental technician in an MHRA registered laboratory.

You will also need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland.

Work experience

Increasingly, work experience plays an important part when applying for dental technology courses. It will help you decide if a career as a dental technician is for you, as well as confirming your interest and suitability for the course.

Previous experience of working in dental care is beneficial. This can be either or paid or voluntary work in a general dental practice, hospital or other healthcare setting. You could also consider other roles in health and social care.

You are advised to contact NHSScotland boards or general dental practices in your area to discuss opportunities for work experience. Competition is extremely high, so applying early, being proactive and showing initiative is the key to securing a work experience placement.

Approved programmes

Entry requirements for dental technology courses vary depending on the university, college or provider. Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each college or university website.

You can visit the GDC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and dental technology programmes across the UK.

Modern Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

Currently, there are no Modern Apprenticeships which would lead directly to a career as a dental technician.

Learning and Development

Once qualified and registered with General Dental Council (GDC), you may also join the Dental Technologists Association (DTA).

In NHSScotland, dental technicians start on band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. With experience, there are opportunities to progress to band 6 as a dental technician specialist. You could also move in to senior roles, such as senior dental technician, quality control or teaching posts.

Clinical dental technology training

Clinical Dental Technology (CDT) training is not currently available in Scotland. You must be registered with the GDC and hold a recognised qualification in dental technology in order to progress to CDT.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

During your career as a dental care professional (DCP), you would be expected to undertake CPD activities in order to:

  • keep your knowledge up to date and relevant to practice
  • maintain your registration with the GDC by ensuring your professional performance is up to standard
  • ensure your behaviour meets the ‘Standards for the Dental Team’ guidances set out by the GDC

GDC currently requires DCPs to complete 150 hours of CPD activities every five years to maintain their registration. This must include:

  • medical emergencies (at least 10 hours)
  • dental materials science (at least 5 hours)
  • disinfection and decontamination (at least 5 hours)

Other recommended areas include legal and ethical issues, complaint handling and oral cancer early detection.

Professional and regulatory bodies

Find out more information from these professional bodies.

General Dental Council (GDC)

The GDC is a UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for dentists and dental care professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the GDC website to find out more.

http://www.gdc-uk.org/

British Association of Clinical Dental Technology (BACDT)

The British Association of Clinical Dental Technology (BACDT) is the professional association which aims to sustain and advance the ethical practice of clinical dental technology and clinical dental technicians. It offers custom-made services that have been designed by industry experts to meet the everyday needs of clinical dental technicians. Find out more on the BACDT website.

http://www.bacdt.org.uk/

The Dental Technologists Association (DTA)

The DTA is the professional representative body for dental technicians working in the UK. It aims to enhance standards of dental technology through its commitment to continued professional development (CPD) and education. Find out more on the DTA website.

http://www.dta-uk.org/