If you’re considering a career as a dental assistant, you probably have lots of questions about the profession. Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions people have about dental assisting careers.
How much does a dental assistant make?
That will depend on your location and the amount of experience you have. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a dental assistant was $34,500 in 2012. The median pay is the point at which half of all workers make more and the other half earn less. Dental assistants in New Hampshire, Alaska, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and North Dakota tend to make more than workers in any other state do.
What do dental assistants do?
Dental assistants perform a great deal of work behind the scenes preparing instruments, equipment and examining rooms for patient care. They also assist the dentist during procedures by suctioning saliva and handing them dental instruments. Some of the work performed by a dental assistant may also be administrative in nature, for example, scheduling appointments and maintaining patient charts.
Do dental assistants have to become certified?
No, there is no universal requirement for dental assistants to become certified. Even so, many voluntarily elect to take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, which is offered by the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB). This is a nationally-recognized exam that will allow you to prove your skillset, giving you access to better-paying jobs.
What is the job outlook for dental assistants?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for dental assistants is expected to grow by 25% before the year 2022, which is much faster than average. The high demand for dental assistants is projected due to ongoing research that shows a connection between a person’s oral and overall health.
What is the difference between a medical assistant and a dental assistant?
Both perform similar functions; however, the work of a dental assistant is more likely to be clinical in nature, whereas the job description of a medical assistant may include both clinical and administrative functions. Dental assistants are also more likely to perform tasks such as taking x-rays or updating medical charts.
What are some good qualities for a dental assistant to have?
Since dental assistants regularly interact with patients, it’s important for them to have a caring demeanor and be able to communicate well. Dental assistants regularly encounter people who are anxious about their treatment, which is why being able to encourage patients is vital to their success. They should also be able to multitask well and maintain a calm demeanor while under pressure.
Where can a dental assistant work?
Most dental assistants work inside dental or orthodontic clinics, but there are also openings in research laboratories, hospitals, government agencies and insurance offices. Some will also go on to teach up-and-coming dental assistants once they have gained a few years of practical work experience.
Are there any tasks a dental assistant may not do?
Yes, a dental assistant is prohibited from practicing medicine, and may therefore not diagnose a condition. They may not perform procedures directly, including dental cleanings. Dental assistants are permitted to take x-rays and molds of the teeth in certain situations.
What education is needed to become a dental assistant?
There are no formal educational requirements. Many people begin by receiving on-the-job training under the supervision of a licensed dentist. However, most dental assistants first obtain a career certificate or Associate’s degree from an accredited institution. Graduating from one of these programs is the best way to develop the skills you’ll need to become a successful dental assistant. For help in finding the right training program, contact us.