Who Needs Technicians… Hire a Gamer

By now we have all figured out you can not simply hire a gamer to design your CAD/CAM restorations. It sounded great 5 years ago and some even tried it, but soon figured out that even though the software is pretty amazing, it takes more than computer skills to design a crown.

Conventional wisdom says, just recruit one of your waxers or metal finishers. Well, it seems that doesn’t always work.

Female Dental Technician GamerAs time passes, some of us, not all, have taken off the rose colored glasses and have begun to look for the solution to the problem. It turns out that we didn’t have to look very far. The answer was what it almost always is—training and education.

We either need to train the gamer, (who is great on the computer), in dental technology, or our trusted lab tech (who is a pretty good waxer) in computer skills. Easy, right??

Well, that doesn’t always work either. We found it wasn’t that simple to train the gamer in dental technology. It took too long, sometimes they couldn’t grasp the concepts and some of them simply just didn’t like the work.

Our trusted waxer/metal finisher was “game” to learn the software skills, but we often found they were slow and the crowns and frameworks—still needed a lot of work.

CAD/CAM Dental BridgeAt the end of the day, you are getting the job done, but you might want to ask; is this as good as it gets?? We have every reason to expect that this “new” technology (over 30 years) will not only make our jobs easier and faster, but also produce very high quality.

Whether you are milling, printing or pressing, if your reality falls short of your expectations with CAD/CAM, and I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, the solution is still the same—-YOUR EMPLOYEES NEED MORE TRAINING AND EDUCATION. Not a general, over the shoulder concept, but precise, fundamental concepts, including anatomy, contour, morphology, occlusion and framework design.

Confused Dental TechncianThe good and bad of computer aided design is that while it produces exactly what is designed, the design must be exactly what is required. So it is ever more critical that the designer know and utilize precise procedures to produce every restoration.

Whether you are training gamers, art students, graphic artists or Fred and Nancy from the lab, PTC has the training program or course that will give them the precise understanding of the fundamentals and 3 dimensional concepts they need to design the trouble free crowns and frameworks that you expect from your investment in CAD/CAM.

The E Myth Revisited: Why most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

There is a lot of talk these days about how many labs are going to close in the next 5 years or so due to retirement of the old guard. At PTC we are also seeing renewed interest in younger technicians ready to start their own labs. Regardless if you are an old timer or a young entrepreneur this message is for you.

For the past 10 years or so, in PTC’s Taking Control Seminars, we have given away a very special book that has resonated with every lab owner that has read it. The book is The E Myth Revisited: Why most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber.

If you are thinking of going out on your own or already have a lab, I strongly suggest you get this book. Although it was written with all small business in mind, it is written as though Mr. Gerber is talking to you, Mr. lab owner. It virtually addresses every nagging problem you face on a daily basis. For many of you it will open your eyes to the “why” of why it seems so difficult to get control.

You can read summaries on line by Googling “The E Myth Revisited“, but you can also purchase used version on Amazon for less than $7.00.

If you read the book and it inspires you to make changes in your business and your life, PTC will be happy to help in any way we can.

Dental Lab Technician Certification Clarification

According to the feedback I have received, many of you are interested in achieving certification in dental laboratory technology.  In addition to a great deal of study, becoming eligible for the CDT exam requires years of hands-on experience.  Your options may be explored at the National Association for Dental Laboratories (NADL).

PTC Certification

PTC is widely recognized around the world as the leader in dental laboratory technology training.  There are several ways for an individual to achieve PTC certification: through online anatomy training, hands-on technical courses and our latest TechMaster  modules.

Though there are differences between the national certification and PTC certification, PTC training (and certification) is one of the quickest ways to get started in your career as a dental lab technician.   Additionally, PTC training materials are extremely helpful for CDT test preparation.  Stay tuned, my next blog will explain in detail.




New TechBook: Contouring Posterior Bridges

We are proud to announce the addition of Contouring Posterior Bridges to the TechBook series.  This book has been completely rewritten, with a new streamlined step by step procedure and over 150 detailed images.  View more information on our TechBook page.  The Contouring Posterior Bridges TechBook can be purchased on the Blue Dolphin Products website or by calling PTC at (800) 448-8855.

There are Plenty of Options for CDT Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Certified Dental Technicians (CDT) must accumulate 12 hours of CE credits each year to renew their certification. These credits include:

  • 1 hour regulatory systems education
  • 6 hours scientific or technical education, and
  • 5 hours of additional scientific, or professional development education.

CDT credits can be earned by completing technical courses, attending clinics, or completing online training courses or webinars.

Courses and clinics are hosted across the country throughout the year at participating laboratories, trade shows, and at companies such as Dentsply, Ivoclar Vivadent and Zahn, to name a few.  LMT Commications has a detailed list of available courses.

PTC offers 4 online dental anatomy courses that are accredited for up to 5 CE credits each (completing all 4 courses will earn a total of 18 scientific credits) and 3 Hands On Dental Technician Courses that are accredited for 32 CE credits each.

Whether you choose to attend a show, complete a hands-on course, or earn your credits in the comfort of your own environment there are many options available to fulfill your CDT credit needs.


PTC and the CDT Exam

Have you considered becoming a Certified Dental Technician (CDT)?

I had been thinking it over for a while before I made the commitment earlier this year. The CDT program is a certification program facilitated by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC), an independent certification organization, which was founded by the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) in 1955. The certification process requires successful completion of 3 exams: a written comprehensive, a written specialty and a specialty practical exam.

I recently took both the comprehensive and specialty (written) exams, and passed. This feat could not have been accomplished without PTC (training). I’d like to share a little about the experience, and how useful PTC training and materials are to CDT exam preparation.

Though I have chosen Ceramics as my area of specialty, regardless of the area of specialty, the written comprehensive exam consists of 160 questions about every specialty area of the dental lab, including but not limited to:

  1. Crown & Bridge
  2. Ceramics
  3. Partial Dentures
  4. Complete Dentures, and
  5. Orthodontics.

I went into the fixed crown & bridge portion with confidence, thanks to my PTC training and previous experience. This training provided me with a solid foundation in dental laboratory technology. The vocabulary that is taught in the PTC programs is essential, and the standard procedures are irreplaceable. Though each of the PTC modules has been key to my test prep; I would have been lacking without the hands-on application experience that a PTC hands-on, technical course provides.

Considering my lack of technical experience as a removable technician, I was less confident about the Dentures portion of the test (which the test does not skimp on, by the way). In addition to a manual recommended by the NADL, I relied heavily upon my PTC Creating Natural Dentures (CND) material. The Oral Anatomy and Physiology portion of CND is invaluable, and may be found not only in any of the CND training modules, but as a separate online training course.

The essential vocabulary I previously mentioned may be acquired through many of our products, including:

The hands-on experience may be acquired by registering for one of our upcoming technical courses.

If you are considering becoming a Certified Dental Techncian, and are looking for materials to aid in your preparation, you are in the right place. Let PTC help you, as it has helped me.

How much money do dental technicians make?

Dental technicians create crowns, bridges and dentures after receiving an impression of the patient’s teeth from a dentist.  There are three main departments in a dental lab: Crown & Bridge, Porcelain, and Dentures.  Some dental technicians attend a 2 year school before working in a dental lab.  However, the majority of training occurs on-the-job and through courses.

Average Annual Wage

The average annual income for dental technicians, as of May 2010, was $37,980.  This corresponds to an average hourly wage of $18.26 per hour.  These figures are based off of the 38,360 reported dental lab technicians.

National Wage Range

The difference between the highest and lowest earning technicians is almost $40,000.  Reported incomes ranged from $20,940 annually to $58,560.

Beginner Technician Wage

Experience and skill level is a major factor in dental technician salary.  Based on LMT’s 2012 wage survey beginner technician wages range anywhere from $20,945 to $31,283, depending on job function.  By beginner technician, is a dental technician with up to 2 years experience.

After 5 years, the average technician wage jumps up to $29,827 to $46,904, depending on the specific technician job function.

For more information on becoming a dental technician see our dental technician courses section or contact any dental technology school.

The Invisible Wall

I’ve been thinking about average lately. In my over four decades of dental laboratory “experience” I’ve seen lots of average; average dentists, average patients, average dental techs, and average dental work.

I can find no clearly defined borders to average. Is it the middle 50%, the middle 25%, the middle 80%? In 1977, in a forward to Dr. Peter Dawson’s book Evaluation diagnosis and Treatment of Occlusal Problems, Dr. L.D. Pankey said about dentists, “It has been said, and I think with generosity, that the general practitioner’s index of competency is as follows: 2% are masters, 8% are adept, 36% are students, and 54% are indifferent.”

I don’t think Dr. Pankey’s estimation is exclusive to dentists. I suspect that those percentages apply to many professions, including ours.

The Invisible Wall of Mediocrity

I have been training dental technicians in PTC technology for the last ten years. During that time I have been observing the phenomenon of “hitting the invisible wall”. This invisible wall is the point where no matter how many seminars we attend, how many books we read, no matter how many gurus we watch, we just don’t get much better. It is not something we talk about much, but it comes up in training.

Some don’t realize they have hit the wall. They equate increased information with increased ability. That is not always the case. Have you ever attended a seminar, and learned lots of new information and new techniques? Then you went back to your lab, applied them to a few cases, and eventually went back to the way you always did it? I believe most of us have.

The wall is not obvious. It is something that over time you begin to feel.

Tearing Down the Wall

If experience or education was the answer to breaking through, many of us would have already done it, but it isn’t. If the solution to breaking through was widely known there would be no excuse for average, but it isn’t. As it turns out, this wall is held in place by something that is so obvious that it itself has been rendered invisible. When spoken about, it is mostly dismissed.

We at PTC know why the wall is there, and more importantly, how break through. The answer lies in gaining the ability to recognize and perfect FUNDAMENTALS. This word, fundamentals, is used and discussed as though it is really understood. But when asked what fundamental means, most people will say “basic”. When asked what basic means, you hear, “well… fundamental.”

Let’s take a closer look.


Definition: Fundamental
An essential or necessary part of a system or object. Serves as an original or generating force; being the one thing from which others are derived. Webster’s Collegiate

This definition applies to a person, a department,or an entire lab. Look at the words in the definition…essential part, original, meaning the source or beginning, generating force, the one thing from which others are derived, meaning where everything starts from and what drives the creation of.

When one is missing or doesn’t understand the fundamentals of a subject, project, or job, they will at some point have difficulty no matter what their experience level.

Copying and Creating
The Difference Between Mediocrity and Excellence

You might ask, if we all have missing fundamentals, how are we able to do our jobs so well? The answer is simple. Have you ever traced a picture? Pretty easy, right? It’s easy to make a duplicate of something when you copy the original and it isn’t necessary that you know how to draw.

In the absence of fundamentals, we copy. Over the shoulder training is mostly watching and copying. If you are good at duplicating what you see, in time you will able to make a coping, a crown, or a six unit bridge, from memory. But the moment you come across a case that requires something you haven’t seen before, you’re stuck; you have nothing to copy from. The only thing wrong with the technician who keeps asking what to do next is that he doesn’t have anything, in memory, to copy from. They get to a certain point based on the memory of past cases, and then run out of pictures to trace.

Lack of fundamentals is the source of mediocrity. That is a powerful statement but I believe it to be true. Let’s take a look at the reverse; when the fundamentals are known, and are understood.

With the fundamentals of a subject known, the result is no longer copying, but creating. When you have a case in front of you, you already know what it will look like when it is completed. Furthermore, you know exactly what steps you need to take and in what order, to create it. You don’t need to ponder and wonder how you are going to do something.

If you know the fundamentals of posterior anatomy, you can envision the final anatomy before you start the case. When you know the fundamentals of waxing. You know the exact steps to wax a crown, including the proper wax, proper waxer temperature, you can predictably and quickly wax the highest quality restoration.

When you know the fundamentals of anterior anatomy, you know exactly each labial feature and where they are placed to achieve the final esthetic result.

Unknown Ceramic Fundamentals

In training we have observed unknown fundamentals in most students concerning porcelain application.

Long standing techniques used and promoted by senior technicians and even schools and manufacturers as “the way to do it” often obscure or prevent closer inspection.  We have found in teaching our advanced layering course that many if not all our students have unknown fundamentals in Porcelain Mixing, Brush Selection, Moisture Control, Shinkage, Application, and Procedures.

To summarize, truly knowing and understanding the source of a procedure or technique and how it effects every action that follows it is understanding the fundamental.  As I said before, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  What I’m sure of though, is once you are able to recognize the source of your knowledge doors open up and increased creativity and quality become effortless.

Master the Fundamentals with PTC Training

If you feel you are stalled in your career, if you have a need to produce higher quality, if you need to improve your productivity, or have anyone in your laboratory who you know would benefit from PTC’s bottom to top training, give us a call.

Whether you are a beginner or seasoned technician, PTC provides affordable training opportunities in Crown and Bridge, Porcelain and Dentures for everyone.

See you on the other side.

Jim Mahan, CDT

How to become a dental lab technician

Dental technicians create crowns, bridges and dentures after receiving an impression of the patient’s teeth from a dentist.  There are three main departments in a dental {lab|laboratory}: Crown & Bridge, Porcelain, and Dentures.  Many dental technicians {only|} work in one department.  This makes it easier to become a dental technician because you do not need to learn everything, only a specific skill or group of skills.

PTC has been training dental lab technicians for {over|the past} 30 years.  Our training systems and technician courses use {our|} streamlined teaching techniques to {quickly|} train new technicians and improve the skills of existing technicians.  Our courses and systems establish stable references and standard procedures that enable you to advance to a level of technical competence in a very short amount of time.  We provide you with training models, TechBooks, and the instruments needed to learn a specific skill.

Dental Anatomy

The first step you should do is take the PTC posterior anatomy and anterior anatomy online courses.   These courses will help prepare you for the technical course and familiarize you with the {terminology|vocabulary} used in the {dental |}industry.


After you finish both online courses call PTC and speak with one of our technical consultants.  We will help you decide which dental technician area is best for you and your individual needs: Crown & Bridge, Porcelain, or Dentures.  You are now ready to register for the next technical course.  When you register you will receive custom PTC training models, the PTC TechBooks for your course and the accompanying instrument kit.


Before you arrive you will study the TechBooks.  We recommend giving yourself at least 30 days to study for the course.  The more you prepare before the course, the more our expert instructors will be able to teach you the material.

Travel and Hotel

See our Travel & Hotel page for information on booking your flight, hotel, and car rental.

The Course

During the course you will learn the technical skills and fundamentals of dental technicians for the specific course.  You will go through all the material with our (Certified Dental Technician) technical trainer and will receive extensive one on one attention to help with your unique training needs.

Job Placement

After you have completed the course we can put you in contact with a dental lab recruitment firm who will help match you with your ideal position.

The beginning of your career as a dental lab technician is well within your reach.

Call (800) 448-8855 for a free technical consultation or send us a message.

The New Contouring Posterior Bridges TechBook

{We’ve|We have} been hard at work developing the {new |}Contouring Posterior Bridges TechBook.  The program has been available as a TechMaster module and {we’re|we are} excited to add it to our TechBook series.  The TechBook {will|} features 52 {posterior |}contouring steps and over 180 {full color|detailed} images.  {We’ve|We have} posted {3|three} images on our FaceBook page.

The updated {contouring |}procedure covers contouring from completed buildup through secondary anatomy.  {It’s|It has} been tested and streamlined to ensure the most efficient contouring technique for high quality {posterior dental |}bridges.

Stay tuned for more updates and our official launch date.

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