This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Dental technicians create and repair devices for the treatment, replacement and protection of damaged, badly positioned or missing teeth.
Dental technicians with up to two years’ experience usually earn
$33K-$42K per year
Senior dental technicians with more than four years’ experience usually earn
$42K-$65K per year
Source: New Zealand Institute of Dental Technologists.
Pay for dental technicians varies depending on experience, and whether you work in the public or private sector.
- New dental technicians earn between minimum wage and $36,000 a year.
- After two years you can expect to earn between $36,000 and $42,000.
- With four or more years' experience, you can earn between $42,000 and $65,000.
Source: New Zealand Institute of Dental Technologists.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job 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 wide range of appliances for the mouth, including:
- crowns (covers for broken or damaged teeth)
- removable orthodontic appliances (plates with wires to straighten teeth)
- 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.
- 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 - 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."
Learning to listen to patients an important part of the job
Working with patients is another 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!"
- The satisfaction of making a product from start to finish.
- The opportunity to be creative.
- Being able to start your own business.
- The lower salary compared with other dental professions.
- Dealing with emergency dental repair work.
Find out what it's like to be a dental technician in the New Zealand Army - 1.01 mins. (Video courtesy of New Zealand Army)
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.
To enter tertiary training you need to have NCEA Level 3. Useful subjects include chemistry, biology, physics and maths.
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.
Dental technicians need to be:
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- good at planning and problem-solving
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.
Dental technicians need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination.
Dental technicians need to be registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand, and hold an annual practising certificate.
- Dental Council of New Zealand website - information on registration
- Dental council of New Zealand website - information on annual practising certificates
Find out more about training
- University of Otago - Faculty of Dentistry
- (03) 479 7019 - email@example.com - www.otago.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Dental technician appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled dental technicians from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Number of factors contribute to shortage of dental technicians
The shortage of dental technicians 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
Dental technicians work for:
- dental laboratories in large public hospitals
- private dental laboratories
- the New Zealand Defence Force.
Many dental technicians set up their own businesses.
- Dental Council of New Zealand, 'Annual Report 2013', accessed December 2014, (www.dentalcouncil.org.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', accessed December 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Institute of Dental Technologists, Careers New Zealand interview, November 2014.
Progression and specialisations
Dental technicians may set up their own businesses, work in research and development with international dental companies, or teach at the University of Otago dental school.
Dental technicians may specialise in a role such as:
- Clinical Dental Technician
- Clinical dental technicians make partial dentures, full dentures and other oral devices, and work with clients to take impressions of teeth.
- Dental Laboratory Assistant
- Dental laboratory assistants specialise in manufacturing crowns, bridges and implants, prostheses for patients who have been in accidents, for example, or orthodontic appliances for straightening teeth.
Last updated 22 August 2017