Certified Dental Technician

Certification is the process of assessing a dental technician’s knowledge and the applied skill level necessary to perform the tasks required of a dental technician. The skill standard, based upon this knowledge and applied skill, is the level required to perform successfully and is the baseline for certification testing. Once the dental technician successfully passes all three of the examinations, they are then considered a Certified Dental Technician and issued the CDT designation.

Dr. Kevin Sessa is willing to bet that most dentists don’t understand what it takes to be a certified dental laboratory technician or what it means.

Dr. Sessa, who serves on the Council on Dental Practice’s Subcommittee on the Future of Dental Laboratory Technology, would actually bet $5 that if he polled the ADA membership, 99 percent couldn’t state the qualifications of a CDT. And Dr. Bill D’Aiuto, chair of the lab subcommittee, agrees.

“Given the ever growing challenges of running a dental business, coupled with increasing government regulations and technical advancements, dentists may be too busy to focus on the advanced distinction and expertise of the certified dental technician,” Dr. D’Aiuto said.

About 20 percent of the dental technicians in the United States are certified, according to the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology.

“For a practicing dentist, working with a dental laboratory that employs a certified dental technician may be extremely important,” said Bennett Napier, executive director for the National Association of Dental Laboratories and the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. “Utilizing a competent, skilled, certified technician can save you time and money. The more knowledgeable a technician is, the more likely it is that he or she will manufacture a quality restoration and select the appropriate materials for long-term wear.”

To become a CDT, one must take three tests, including a written comprehensive exam that tests the technician’s knowledge of all disciplines; an in-depth written specialty exam on one of the five areas of specialty (crown and bridge, ceramics, partial dentures, compete dentures or orthodontics); and a timed hands-on practical exam, which tests the technician’s skill level and his or her ability to manufacture a specific prosthesis in a sequence. A CDT must also complete 12 hours of continuing education each year.

“While some states have considered requiring certification for dental technicians, it is often a controversial topic,” Mr. Napier said. “Many dental organizations are concerned that requiring dental technicians to become certified will raise lab prices or reduce the number of technicians. This has not been the case in the three states that have mandated certification.”

“The ADA and dentistry as a whole is an organization that highly values advanced education,” Dr. Sessa said. “Our membership, I think, believes in the principles of providing our patients with the best care given by the best trained individuals so that the standard of care can remain high. We expect it of ourselves as dentists and we expect it of our staff to stay well trained.”