What Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians Do
Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians construct, fit, or repair medical appliances and devices.
Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians often work in laboratories. Other technicians work in health and personal care stores or in healthcare facilities. Most work full time.
How to Become a Dental or Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician or Medical Appliance Technician
Dental or ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training.
The median annual wage for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians was $37,370 in May 2019.
Overall employment of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As cosmetic prosthetics, such as veneers and crowns, become less expensive, there should be an increase in demand for these appliances. In addition, as the large baby-boom population grows older, there should be increased demand for orthotic devices, such as braces and orthopedic footwear.
Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians construct, fit, or repair medical appliances and devices, including dentures, eyeglasses, and prosthetics.
Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically do the following:
- Follow detailed work orders and prescriptions
- Determine which materials and tools will be needed
- Bend, form, and shape fabric or material
- Polish and shape appliances and devices, using hand or power tools
- Adjust appliances or devices to allow for a more natural look or to improve function
- Inspect the final product for quality and accuracy
- Repair damaged appliances and devices
In small laboratories and offices, technicians may handle every phase of production. In larger ones, technicians may be responsible for only one phase of production, such as polishing, measuring, or testing.
Dental laboratory technicians use traditional or digital impressions or molds of a patient’s teeth to create crowns, bridges, dentures, and other dental appliances. They work closely with dentists, but have limited contact with patients.
Dental laboratory technicians work with small hand tools, such as files and polishers. They work with many different materials, including wax, alloy, ceramic, plastic, and porcelain, to make prosthetic appliances. In some cases, technicians use computer programs or three-dimensional printers to create appliances or to get impressions sent from a dentist’s office.
Dental laboratory technicians can specialize in one or more of the following: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, or ceramics. Technicians may have different job titles, depending on their specialty. For example, technicians who make ceramic restorations such as veneers and bridges, are called dental ceramists.
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are also commonly known as manufacturing opticians or optical mechanics.
Although they make some lenses by hand, ophthalmic laboratory technicians often use automated equipment. Some technicians manufacture lenses for optical instruments, such as telescopes and binoculars. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians should not be confused with dispensing opticians, who work with customers to select eyewear and may prepare work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.
Medical appliance technicians construct, fit, and repair medical supportive devices, including arch supports, facial parts, and foot and leg braces.
Medical appliance technicians use many different types of materials, such as metal, plastic, and leather, to create a variety of medical devices for patients who need them because of a birth defect, an accident, disease, amputation, or the effects of aging. For example, some medical appliance technicians make hearing aids.
Orthotic and prosthetic technicians, also called O&P technicians, are medical appliance technicians who create orthoses (braces, supports, and other devices) and prostheses (replacement limbs and facial parts). These technicians work closely with orthotists or prosthetists.
Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians held about 81,200 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians was distributed as follows:
|Dental laboratory technicians||36,200|
|Ophthalmic laboratory technicians||30,200|
|Medical appliance technicians||14,800|
The largest employers of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians were as follows:
|Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing||58%|
|Health and personal care stores||12|
|Offices of dentists||6|
|Offices of optometrists||5|
|Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers||4|
Technicians may be exposed to health and safety hazards when they handle certain materials, but there is little risk if they follow proper procedures, such as wearing goggles, gloves, or masks. They may spend a great deal of time standing or bending.
Most dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians work full time.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians.
For information about requirements for certification of dental laboratory technicians, visit
For information about career opportunities in commercial dental laboratories, visit
For a list of accredited programs for medical appliance technicians, visit
American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists
For information on requirements for certification of medical appliance technicians, visit
For a career video on medical appliance technicians, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/dental-and-ophthalmic-laboratory-technicians-and-medical-appliance-technicians.htm (visited ).