Have you ever heard of dental technologists? An important role in the dental world, dental technologists are often overshadowed by the more prominent dentists. The truth is, not many people even know that the role exists.
We sat down with Associate Professor Dr. Ramesh Kumaresan, Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at AIMST University, to help dispel some ambiguity surrounding the profession.
#1. Dental technologists are crucial to the dental team
Ever wondered who makes the dentures and tooth implants (permanent tooth replacements) that are used by the dentist?
Well, it’s the work of a dental technologist! While dentists are the ones who meet up with patients to consult and perform procedures, dental technologists design and fabricate the form and function of the patient’s teeth. This makes them a crucial part of the dental team. After all, a dentist won’t be able to fix a missing tooth if there isn’t a replacement for it.
“It is a 50-50% of work that is shared between a dentist and a dental technologist,” explains Dr Ramesh. “Neither can survive without the other.”
#2. They work in laboratories instead of dental clinics
There’s a reason why you probably haven’t heard of dental technologists.
“Most of the time, people would not have met dental technologists in the clinic. Dental technologists are a vital part of the dental team but are not found working in the clinic because their territory is mostly in the dental laboratory,” says Dr Ramesh.
Dental technologists tinker around dental laboratories preparing dentures and dental prosthesis (artificial dental parts) and are seldom found in clinics. This means that you will have limited contact with patients, perfect for those who want to venture into the dental world but aren’t quite excited about dealing with patients.
#3. It’s an artistic profession
This may surprise you but dental technologists are a creative bunch.
Understanding how different dental materials can work together to create a functional prosthesis is only one part of a dental technologist’s job. They also need to make sure that the restoration of someone’s teeth is natural and in harmony with the rest of the patient’s mouth.
For instance, the colour of teeth varies from one person to the next, which requires good colour perception. The job also requires creating models of a patient’s mouth and pouring materials into moulds to make dental prosthesis, all of which is similar to the work of an artisan.
“A dental technologist is a person who can be thought of as an artist with a thorough understanding of dental material sciences.” explained Dr Ramesh. “If you are creative, if you are innovative, if you are artistic, then dental technology is the right career for you.”
#4. It’s not limited to teeth and gums
Contrary to its name, dental technologists aren’t just about constructing crowns and dentures. Dr Ramesh reveals that some dental technologists actually specialise in maxillofacial prosthesis, where they manufacture and fabricate facial prosthesis.
“Supposed a patient who got into an accident has lost a part of his nose or has his eyes removed, a dental technologist can come in to fabricate the maxillofacial prosthesis — that is, a prosthesis that can replace their ears, eyes, nose or other part of the head and neck region.”
This is only one of the many specialisations a dental technologist can get into. According to Dr Ramesh, you can also go into implantology (a branch of dentistry dedicated to dental implants where artificial teeth are inserted into the jawbone), a field where dental technologists play a huge role in.
#5. Dental technologists are in demand
In Malaysia, dental technologist is a registered profession under the Allied Health Professional Division of the Ministry of Health. Once you graduate, you can choose to work in government dental offices — according to Dr Ramesh, every government dental clinic in Malaysia has a dental laboratory — armed forces as well as in universities and teaching institutions.
Your prospect as a dental technologist isn’t limited to just governmental bodies. “In Malaysia,” he adds, “the private dental industry — that is, the private dental laboratory — gets a bulk of work from the dentists in fabricating the prosthesis. So there’s a huge demand and requirement in the private dental industry for dental technologists, especially for scale dental technologists.”
Additionally, you can always opt for a career overseas. “It is a global profession. If you are a skilled dental technologist, you can practise in any country.”
Dental technology is an important part of the dental industry but there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding it. We hope this gives you an idea of the field and piques your interest to learn more.