How technicians can REALLY love their jobs

Tom Zaleske explores some of the challenges facing dental labs, and how he thinks technicians can learn to love their careers.

I’m always a bit hesitant when asked to editorialize on our dental technology profession because we participate in dental technology in many varied business, career and job models. 

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From one-person technician/owner labs who singly toil, pushing cases out every day, to labs and job houses who have invested heavily in digital technology, to in-house technicians who can concentrate on the finer details without the day-to-day pressure and distraction of having full case pans, bill collection or making payroll, as well as everyone else in between.   

Because of this variation in business definition, we need to find commonalities that unite and push all of us to that goal of satisfaction. We can all agree on certain things right off the bat. Satisfaction comes from being compensated commensurately for what we do-this is where my buddy Mark Jackson says, “you must take off the technician hat, and put on your business owner hat when making business decisions.” For many technician/owners, marketing and selling their products is a hugely dissatisfying task and obstacle. Understanding how to identify the market you want to participate in, and then soliciting that market are not skills that are taught at dental technology school or expected knowledge on the CDT exam. Add the fact that the business complexion of our industry is changing from the hand made “on off” custom product to an automated commoditized product, and it’s easy to understand why mode of satisfaction is important to define.  

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Most technicians and not necessarily business owners can also agree that base satisfaction comes from knowing that we have done the best we can on a case, given the numerous specific challenges presented when fabricating personalized products for the human being attached to them.  

Satisfaction can also be derived from using technique, products and foresight to elevate the prosthetic delivery and address issues involved in fabricating with several technologies to deliver not only a successfully esthetic but also durable end result.

My personal motivation and satisfaction comes from understanding that I have a career in dental technology and not a job. For those dental technicians who find themselves surrounded with various avenues to attain satisfaction and feel a lacking, it is important to define the definition of what and why they do it. 

A career is the pursuit of a lifelong ambition or the general course of progression towards lifelong goals.

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A job is an activity through which an individual can earn money. It is a regular activity in exchange of payment.

Hopefully this will provide some ideas to identify and define your future participation in this industry and provide the satisfaction to proceed.

Tom Zaleske is the owner of Matrix Dental Laboratory in Crown Point, Ind., and has more than 25 years of experience in removable prosthodontics. He regularly lectures on providing high quality service to dentists and, most importantly, to their patients. He can be reached at