Becoming a dental assistant is a great career choice, especially for those who would like to work in the field, but don’t wish to spend years in school to become a dentist.
Dental assistants are responsible for helping dentists provide oral healthcare to patients, and with this profession comes varied tasks that may change from patient to patient, depending on their needs. Duties are based on state regulations and can include:
- Taking a patient’s health history
- Assisting the dentist during procedures
- Developing protocols for infectious control
- Taking and developing x-rays
- Office duties such as answering the telephones, billing patients, and scheduling appointments
- Taking impressions of a patient’s teeth for study casts
- Teaching patients how to properly brush and floss
- Providing patients with oral care instructions after a procedure or surgery
- Removing stitches
Where Can You Work as a Dental Assistant?
There are plenty of job opportunities for dental assistants. They can choose to work for a dentist that has a solo practice, or if they prefer a larger setting, they can work for a group practice, vocational school, or dental clinic. Assistants can also be hired by an insurance company to process dental claims, or find a job as a dental product sales representative
Dental assistants that treat patients spend their day in a well-lit and incredibly clean environment. They must always wear gloves while treating patients, and depending on the procedure, they will wear masks and protective clothing in order to protect themselves and their patients from infectious diseases.
Educational requirements differ from state to state. Some assistants can gain employment with a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training, while others need a more formal education. Most of the programs are offered at community colleges and take about one year to complete. Students will learn about gums, teeth, the jaw, how to use dental equipment, and much more. Depending on the program, either a certificate or diploma is earned.
Those that learn on the job will usually be taught by another assistant, but at times, the dentist will teach as well. Training includes dental terminology, how to interact with patients, and the names of dental instruments.
Other Important Skills
Attention to detail – This is very important because dental assistants need to make sure they are always following proper protocols while treating patients and sterilizing instruments.
Listening skills – Assistants must be able to work and follow directions from the dentist at the same time.
Interpersonal skills – It’s helpful to be upbeat and friendly at all times to patients, especially to those that are afraid or in a lot of pain.
Organizational skills – Organizing is important in any career, but especially this one because correct tools must be in place for treating patients, and patients’ charts need to be properly filed.
Some states require assistants to pass the Certified Dental Assistant exam administered by the Dental Assisting National Board. To be eligible to sit for the exam, you:
- Must have graduated from an accredited program
- Have a high school diploma and two years full-time or four years part-time dental assisting work experience
- Have CPR certification
Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there should be more than 74,000 new openings for dental assistants up to the year 2022. That’s an employment growth of nearly 24.5% percent, which is higher than the average for most other professions.
Salary ranges from $24,220 to $48,350, and depends on location and education. Dental assistants with the highest earning potential live in:
- San Francisco, California
- Manchester, New Hampshire
- Haverhill, Massachusetts
If you would like to learn more about this career, we can help. Contact us today.