There are a variety of routes and courses available to those who wish to qualify as a dental technician. All courses must be approved by the General Dental Council (GDC), and include the BTEC (Business and Technician Education Council) National Diploma in Dental Technology, the SQA Higher National Certificate (Scottish Equivalent), a Dental Technology foundation degree, or a BSc (honours) degree in dental technology. Courses vary in their time to complete, ranging from one to four years, depending on whether they are full or part time. It is also possible to gain a recognised qualification through the armed forces.
Many trainee dental technicians work in a dental laboratory for at least four days a week and attend a college or centre of further education for one day a week, working towards the BTEC National Diploma. This enables them to get hands on experience in the laboratory and learn about the theory behind the work, this approach can take one to two years to complete, but has the bonus of students being able to earn money while they train. Some colleges also offer a three year full time course, but technicians must have at least two years laboratory experience before qualifying.
Hospitals and health authorities usually offer a four year sandwich course, where students spend some time studying at college and some time working in a dental laboratory, so they are fully qualified once the course is completed.
Degree courses for dental technicians are full time courses and take three years on average to complete. There are three universities which currently offer these courses,
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- Sheffield University
- University of Cardiff
Anybody who wishes to gain their qualification through the armed forces should arrange an informal interview at their local armed forces office, where all relevant information and advice can be given.
The required entry qualifications for dental technicians depend very much on the desired course to be taken. For the BTEC National Diploma in Dental Technology entry requirements are at least four GCSE’s at grade C or above, usually including two sciences, or Scottish equivalents. Once this qualification has been gained students can consider doing a foundation degree in dental technology or a BSc degree in dental technology. In order to gain a place on a Dental Technology foundation degree, students must have GCSE’s in English, Maths and Science, and at least one A level, usually in a science or technology based subject (or BTEC national diploma). For the BSc honours degree in dental technology students must have GCSE’s in English and Science and preferably Maths and at least two A levels in either science or technology in order to be considered as a potential student (or BTEC National Diploma). Each course provider differs in the entry requirements, for example some schools will accept Access course qualifications and others won’t, it is advisable to research all available courses and their individual requirements before making an application.
For those who work in a dental laboratory and hope to attend college to work towards a qualification it is usually the employers responsibility to pay for the course and therefore they often handle the college applications, this is the general rule for any part time technicians course (see list below of available schools and colleges) however, for all full time dental courses applications must be made through UCAS, any information or advise about applying for these courses can be found on their website www.ucas.ac.uk .
Topics covered on courses
Much of a dental technicians training involves carrying out procedures in a dental laboratory and is of a practical nature, where students will usually be supervised by a more senior member of the laboratories team of technicians. The theoretical side of their training involves studying topics such as dental anatomy, dental materials, denture prosthetics, orthodontic appliances, basic laboratory techniques dental bridge fabrications and many more. Students can find more detailed information and advise by searching relevant websites such as the dental technicians association www.dta-uk.org , or the international dental education academy www.the-idea-centre.com , the dental laboratories association www.dla.org.uk and of course the GDC’s and BDA’s (British Dental Association) websites for example.
Training course providers
- Belfast dental school
- Matthew Boulton College (Birmingham)
- Cardiff University
- Telford College (Edinburgh)
- School of Dental Technology (Leeds)
- City of Liverpool Community College
- Lambeth College (London)
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- Castle College Nottingham
- The Sheffield College