Dana B. Cohen, City's Dental Technology Chair
By Nuala Lincke-Ivic

"The Dental Technology Program started at LACC in 1965."

Introduction to City's Dental Tech Program

The community college is the place to begin a career or start a new career. Like the very successful Dental Hygiene Program at West Los Angeles College, the Dental Technology Program at Los Angeles City College supports this contention. Current students in City’s Dental Tech Program include a lawyer who just ended a long career with the L.A. District Attorney’s Office, a dentist from China, and recent high school graduates. Learn about City’s successful Dental Tech Program in my interview with Dana B. Cohen, City’s Dental Tech Chair.

Interview Questions:

Nuala Lincke-Ivic: I understand that your relationship with City stretches back far in time—to when you were 19 years old.  Tell us about that relationship, how it began and evolved over the years.

Dana B. Cohen: I started in the dental technology program here at LACC on January 31, 1972 as a student.  I graduated the Dental Technology Program in January 1974. From 1974 to 1977 I was a member of the Dental Technology Program Advisory Committee.  In 1977, I took an evening class in Orthodontics here at LACC and the department chair came in the 2nd week of class and asked me if I was interested in teaching, one of the departmental faculty was out on illness leave,  I started to teach part time the next week.  The following semester Spring 1978 I was a long term substitute and Fall 1978 I was hired as a tenure track faculty member.  I became Department Chair in 1993, Chair of the department chair's caucus in 1999, Academic Senate president in 2005, chair of the LACC Shared Governance Committee in 2007 and back as department chair in 2008.

NLI: How long has City’s Dental Technology Program been in existence; how has it changed over the years, and how do you foresee it changing with the advent of new advances in dental technology?

DBC: The Dental Technology Program started at LACC in 1965 with the implementation of the California Educational Plan of 1960.  The department faculty originally came from the UCLA Dental Laboratory Technology Program.  LACC already had a Dental Hygiene and Dental Assistant Programs and the Dental Technology program fit right in.  The program was accredited for the first time by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation in 1967.  Around 1980, the Dental Hygiene discipline moved to West LA College and the Dental assisting discipline was disbanded in the budget upheaval of 1986.   In 1999, the LACC program joined with UCLA Dental Continuing Education Department and Dr. Ed McLaren and started the Esthetic Dental Design Program.  This program teaches the highest level of cosmetic dentistry to both dentists and technicians together.  It is unique in the world and has been extremely successful.  In 2010 this program was moved from Dental Continuing Education to the Department of Restorative Dentistry in the UCLA Dental School and changed its name to the Master Ceramist Program.  In 2005, LACC Dental Technology Program joined with UCLA Dental Continuing Education Department again to start the Advanced Prosthodontic, Implant and Maxillofacial Program.  These programs make LACC Dental Technology Program unique in all of the world in having community college graduates going into advanced dental technology programs at the university level.  Dental technology is one of the last hand crafted professions.  It is currently undergoing a shift as computerization of many of the formerly handmade prosthesis are being CAD/CAM processed.  LACC Dental Technology program teaches both analog and digital means of producing dental prosthesis.

NLI: After completing City’s Dental Technology Program, graduates should take the Certified Dental Technician (CDT) test.  What percentage of City’s Dental Technology graduates take this test, and what percentage passes this test?

DBC: LACC offers the Recognized Graduate Certified Dental Technician Examination (RGCDT) every spring semester and the CDT practical exam every fall semester. Between 50% and 100% of our senior class take the RGCDT exam.  In 2010 and 2011 the LACC graduates taking the exam placed 1st in the nation with the highest average score on the exam and 100% passing rate.

NLI: Do all graduates of City’s Dental Technology Program find employment in their field; what’s the average salary of a new graduate?

DBC: There are more jobs coming into the program than there are student to fill them.  However, this does not always mean that every student get a job.  The program is designed to give entering students a job skill at the beginning of the program and to have them work part-time during their education.  Many students find the workload too great for outside employment. Historically, about 10% of the graduated of the program go on to dental school to become dentists.  Graduates can expect to earn from $15 to $20 per hour depending upon their speed, accuracy and experience.

NLI: How many of City’s Dental Technology graduates transfer to the advanced Dental Technology Program at UCLA?  How does UCLA’s program differ from City’s?  What’s the average salary of someone who graduates from both City’s and UCLA’s Dental Technology Programs?

DBC: Between 25% and  50% of our graduates go into the UCLA/LACC Master Ceramist and Advanced Prosthodontics, implant and Maxillofacial Programs. Student graduating from one of the UCLA/LACC programs start at about $60,000 to $70,000 per year.

NLI: In terms of cost and quality, how does City’s Dental Technology Program compare to Dental Technology Programs offered by various vocational colleges? 

DBC: There are only 19 ADA CODA accredited colleges left in the United States. LACC Dental Technology Program is housed in the newest and most modern state of the art facility with a very professional and experienced faculty.  LACC teaches Productivity Training Corporation's TVS 2000 education system to teach some of its techniques.  This ensures that the students not only learn how to fabricate a prosthesis with accuracy but how to do it accurately and quickly.   The program is just not comparable to any vocational school.

NLI: There are so many things the average person doesn’t know when he or she is going through the process of tooth replacement or aesthetic enhancement: bridges, dentures, crowns, implants, and veneers.  What tips do you have for that person?  Should he or she ask the dentist and dental technologist specific questions?  For example, is it important to know where the dentist and dental technologist went to school—and if the dental technologist passed the CDT test?  Is it possible that someone without CDT certification can be fabricating teeth in a dental office?

DBC: In 2011, the US Department of Labor listed about 33,000 dental technicians in the United States.  In 2011 the Nation Board for the Certification of Dental Technicians listed about 7,000 Certified Dental Technicians in the United States.  There are no licensing laws for dental technicians in the United States.   The most important things for a patient to ask their dental professional are:

  • Was the dental prosthesis made in the United States or elsewhere?
  • Was the dental prosthesis made by a Certified Dental Technician?
  • What materials are used in the manufacture of my dental prosthesis?

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