Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically do the following:
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 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, plastic, and porcelain, to make prosthetic appliances. In some cases, technicians use computer programs to create appliances or to get impressions sent from a dentist's office.
Dental laboratory technicians can specialize in one of six areas: 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 porcelain and acrylic 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, optical mechanics, or optical goods workers.
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 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.