Dental ceramists are dental laboratory technicians who help create such things as crowns, veneers, and dentures. These types of dental prostheses must be carefully crafted from molds made from the patients' teeth. There are no specific programs or degrees required to become a dental ceramist in the US and many other countries. Some dental labs will hire people with only a high school diploma or its equivalent and teach them through on-the-job training. Those who do take college-level training in dental laboratory technology may raise their chances of getting a job, however, because some labs prefer to hire people with college educations.
Many universities, community colleges, and technical colleges in the US and the UK offer associate degree programs in dental laboratory technology. Several certificate programs might also be available in specialties such as dental ceramics. Other countries may offer different programs and options for a student who wants to become a dental ceramist.
In some cases, a person who wants to become a dental ceramist will be hired with no degree or experience. Manual dexterity and the ability to give attention to small details typically are the skills required to become a dental ceramist. Dental prosthetics such as dentures and crowns must match the patient's imprints precisely for a good, comfortable fit, and dental ceramists must ensure the formed dental replacements fit perfectly inside the patient's mouth. Adjustments must often be made, a little at a time, after a patient wears the prosthetic. A dental ceramist should also have good eyesight in order to match the color with the patient's existing teeth.
A student can also opt to complete a formal dental ceramist training program for a certificate. These types of courses usually teach such subjects as sculpting techniques and how to properly mix acrylics and waxes. The courses offered can often also be applied to an associate's degree in dental laboratory technology. Even someone who gets a job first and learns during training sometimes opts to complete a formal education, as this can help him or her learn more skills in a dental lab and expand career prospects.
Those who wish to work for large commercial dental laboratories, hospital-affiliated labs, or certain private practices may reach their goals faster by earning a dental laboratory technician associate's degree. People who want to become a dental ceramist may also find that earning a degree will qualify them for other types of work. Companies that make dental products often hire ceramists, for instance. Dental laboratories also need managers who understand the type of work that is done. Management and business courses or a bachelor's degree may allow a dental ceramist to advance to these types of jobs.