Jobs Outlook: Medical, Dental, and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
Job opportunities for medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory technicians should be favorable, despite expected slower-than-average growth in overall employment through the year 2014. Employers have difficulty filling trainee positions, probably because entry-level salaries are relatively low and because the public is not familiar with these occupations. Most job openings will arise from the need to replace technicians who transfer to other occupations or who leave the labor force.
Medical appliance technicians will grow faster than dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians, with employment projected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations, due to the increasing prevalence of the two leading causes of limb lossódiabetes and cardiovascular disease. Advances in technology may spur demand for prostheses that allow for greater movement.
During the last few years, demand has arisen from an aging public that is growing increasingly interested in cosmetic prostheses. For example, many dental laboratories are filling orders for composite fillings that are the same shade of white as natural teeth to replace older, less attractive fillings. However, job growth for dental laboratory technicians will be limited. The overall dental health of the population has improved because of fluoridation of drinking water, which has reduced the incidence of dental cavities, and greater emphasis on preventive dental care since the early 1960s. As a result, full dentures will be less common, as most people will need only a bridge or crown.
Demographic trends also make it likely that many more Americans will need vision care in the years ahead. Not only will the population grow, but also, the proportion of middle-aged and older adults is projected to increase rapidly. Middle age is a time when many people use corrective lenses for the first time, and elderly persons usually require more vision care than others. However, the increasing use of automated machinery will limit job growth for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.