Scope of practice competencies for dental technicians

A competent dental technician is one who applies knowledge, skills, attitudes, communication, and judgement to the delivery of prostheses and appropriate oral health care in accordance with the scope of practice within which they are registered.

 Understanding current scientific knowledge

A competent dental technician understands current biological, physical, dental materials science, cultural, social, and psychological factors involved in dental and oral disease, and in attaining and maintaining oral health. They also analyse, critique, synthesise and problem solve in the discipline of dental technology.

A competent dental technician undertakes research and analyses relevant scientific literature and can apply their findings to the provision of prostheses and appliances and the delivery of appropriate oral health care.

Measuring understanding

The dental technician:

  • demonstrates an understanding of biological, physical, dental materials science, cultural, social, and psychological factors in dental technology
  • uses these factors to inform best practice
  • communicates this knowledge to prescribing clinicians, patients and the wider community
  • demonstrates understanding of current issues by reading scientific publications in dental materials scorned and oral health, remaining current in research informed practice and sharing their experiences and case studies with colleagues.

 Obtaining prescribing clinician and patient information

A competent dental technician obtains patient information relevant to the design, manufacture and delivery of prostheses and dental appliances, and records this information logically, legibly, and securely. The dental technician also communicates with other oral health professionals and, if appropriate, patients in order to obtain relevant information.

Measuring patient information

Records show:

  • the prescription date
  • the name and address of the prescribing practitioner
  • the name of the patient
  • a detailed prescription
  • the date of manufacture
  • the materials used.

Analysing the health practitioner’s prescription and the patient’s information to plan the design, materials selection and the manufacture of prostheses or appliances

A competent dental technician assesses information applicable to the design and manufacture of prostheses and appliances. The dental technician is able to:

  • recognise their own limitations and the need for case referral when appropriate
  • recognise conditions that require referral and be able to refer to an appropriate health professional any situation which would be detrimental to successful manufacture of prosthetic and or appliance work, in addition to the patient's general health
  • be responsible for the management of any appliance and prosthetic work subcontracted out to another health professional
  • critically analyse the outcome of prostheses and appliances provided.

Measuring analysis and planning

The dental technician demonstrates and records:

  • accurate information on the design, selection of appropriate materials and manufacture of the prosthesis or appliance
  • potentially harmful conditions e.g. inadequate impressions to produce suitable working casts
  • independent professional judgement to select appropriate materials and manufacturing techniques
  • referral to appropriate oral health professionals where appropriate
  • how and why the clinical, physical and biological properties of materials used in the design and manufacture may be modified by manipulation, environmental and chemical modifiers, and how these changes relate to the success or failure of these material
  • provision of ongoing maintenance according to best practice.

Repairing and manufacturing prostheses and appliances as described in the dental technology Scopes of Practice

A competent dental technician is able to carry out processes and procedures associated with the design, manufacture and repair of fixed and removable oral and extra-oral appliances and prostheses prescribed by a practising dental specialist, dentist, clinical dental technician, medical practitioner or other practising health practitioner to a clinically acceptable standard.

Measuring the repair and manufacture of prostheses and appliances

The dental technician demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • providing the prescribing practitioner and, where appropriate, patients with full explanations and information in order to make informed decisions
  • demonstrating technical competence in the provision of prostheses and appliances
  • designing and constructing fully functional, effective and “aesthetically pleasing” prostheses and appliances as per the prescription
  • ensuring that the manufacturer’s guidelines are followed for materials and components used in the manufacturing of prostheses and appliances
  • providing advice on the care and maintenance of prostheses and appliances, where applicable.

 Knowing when to refer

A competent dental technician refers for advice or outsourcing of work where the technical difficulty indicates that the case requires level of knowledge or skills greater than those of the dental technician.

After carrying out emergency repairs to removable dentures, the dental technician refers patients to the appropriate oral health professional for an intra-oral examination to ensure that the repaired denture is fit for purpose.

Measuring clinical competence in referrals

The dental technician demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • making appropriate referrals
  • obtaining advice from other health professionals where necessary
  • completing relevant documentation
  • when carrying out simple repairs to removable dentures, recording detail information such as; the date of the repair, name of patient, patient’s usual oral health practitioner, description of the broken denture and nature of the repair, the oral health practitioner to whom the patient is referred for intra-oral assessment of the repair.

 Communicating effectively

A competent dental technician communicates effectively with prescribing health professionals and patients where appropriate, ie when carrying out shade taking procedures or undertaking repairs to remove dentures.

Measuring competence in communications

With patients, the dental technician demonstrates:

  • good rapport
  • empathy
  • adequate history-taking technique
  • explanation of findings, treatment options and likely outcomes in easily understood language
  • the ability to assure patient dignity.
  • respect and understanding of cultural differences
  • the ability to adapt information to the patients comprehension
  • confirmation of the patients understanding of the information that is provided
  • spoken English equivalent  to 7 on the Academic Skills Category of the International English Language Testing System.

With other health professionals, the dental technician:

  • refers where necessary
  • seeks advice where necessary
  • contributes technical input to overall health treatment planning.

 Preventing cross infection

A competent dental technician knows the range of common infectious diseases and their relevance to the provision of dental care and understands the pathogenesis of hepatitis and HIV and their implications to clinical practice. The dental technician also undertakes procedures to ensure compliance with the Dental Council’s infection control practice standard.

Measuring competence in cross infection

With equipment and work surface areas the dental technician:

  • cleans all equipment after use
  • ensures all instruments and equipment are handled and cared for in a manner which prevents cross infection
  • treats all patient body fluids as potentially infectious
  • defines contaminated and uncontaminated work areas
  • uses appropriate sterilisation and disinfection procedures in the laboratory.

With personal protocols the dental technician:

  • demonstrates hand-washing protocols
  • complies with wearing of gloves, masks, protective eyewear, protective clothing during handling contaminated work
  • maintains personal infection control audits monthly.

 Maintaining a safe work environment

A competent dental technician undertakes occupational health and safety procedures to ensure compliance with relevant laws and practice standards.

Measuring maintaining a safe work environment

The dental technician demonstrates a safe working environment by:

  • monitoring emergency plans and accident or incident protocols
  • controlling identified hazards by using or taking the protective measures supplied and identified
  • arranging equipment in the laboratory to enable technicians, clinicians and, when applicable, patients to be able to move safely within this environment.

 Maintaining competence

The competent dental technician maintains competence by monitoring the outcomes of work, and undertaking continuing personal professional development.

Measuring maintaining competence

The dental technician reviews their own professional practice including:

  • monitoring performance against set standards
  • identifying skills, knowledge and attitudes that are to be developed
  • identifying learning needs for personal professional development
  • implementing an active professional development programme
  • discussing professional issues with colleagues
  • demonstrating compliance with Dental Council practice standards,
  • fulfilling the Dental Council’s minimum recertification requirements. 

 Understanding and complying with legal requirements

The competent dental technician understands and complies with the ethical responsibilities and legislative requirements for the safe and competent practice of dental technology in New Zealand.

Measuring legal understanding and compliance

The dental technician demonstrates familiarity with, and complies with, relevant legislation and professional standards including:

  • Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003
  • Health and Disabilities Services Consumer Rights
  • Privacy Act and the Health Information Privacy Code
  • Occupational safety and health legislation
  • Dental Council prescribed scopes of dental technology practice.