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Dental Assisting Careers, Jobs, and Training Information

Dental Assisting Career and Job Highlights

  • The prospects for this job should be exceptional.
  • Dentists are anticipated to employ an increased number of assistants to perform regular tasks, allowing themselves adequate time to perform more profitable work.
  • Most dental assistants learn through on-the-job training; however, more are training through special dental-assisting programs which can be completed in 1 year or less.

Dental Assisting Career Overview

The tasks of dental assistants include patient care, as well as office and laboratory responsibilities. Standing next to the patient’s chair, they try to make patients as comfortable as they can. They also prepare patients for any possible treatments and acquire past dental records. Dental assistants supply dentists with the proper instruments and materials needed and suction the patient’s mouth to ensure that it is dry and clear. Other responsibilities include: sterilizing and cleaning instruments and apparatus, preparing trays of procedural instruments, and informing patients about postoperative and basic dental health.

Dental assistants may also prepare supplies for making impressions and restorations, take oral x-rays, and then develop the film under a dentist’s supervision. Additional duties may include: removing sutures, applying treatment to gums and teeth using topical anesthetics and cavity-preventing agents respectively, cleaning up excess cement from a filling, and placing special rubber dams on teeth for isolation before individual treatment.

Forming casts of teeth and mouth is a duty that is performed in the laboratory. Other lab duties include cleaning and polishing of detachable appliances and making temporary crowns. Assistants who work in the office are responsible for scheduling and reminding patients of appointments, checking patients in, managing bills and payments, keeping records, and ordering dental materials.

Dental assistants differ significantly from hygienists; hygienists are licensed professionals with clinical duties.
The job of a dental assistant is performed in a bright and sanitary surroundings. In order to organize instruments, materials, and treatments, assistants work in an area by the dental chair. This also allows them to aid and hand things to the dentist. It is necessary for dental assistants to wear the proper clothing; gloves, masks, eyewear and protective clothing must be worn to protect themselves as well as the patient from any serious disease.
While using x-ray machines, safety procedures are obeyed to reduce the risk associated with them.

Dental Assisting Career Training & Job Qualifications

While dental assistants mostly learn vital skills through on-the-job dental assistant training, more and more are being trained in specialty programs. These specialized dental-assisting programs are offered by small junior and community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools, or the Military. Dentists require assistants to be reliable and dependable, to work well with people, and to have superior manual dexterity because their hands are like a second pair to the dentist. High school students interested in being a dental assistant should enroll in health courses, particularly biology, chemistry, and office practices.

In 2002, 269 dental-assisting programs were approved by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. These programs include classroom, laboratory, and preclinical teaching in dental-assisting abilities and other principles. Moreover, students earn useful experience in dental schools, offices, and clinics. Students can earn a certificate or diploma in 1 year or less. An associate degree can be completed through a 2-year program offered by a community or junior college. All programs require a high school diploma or something equal to it. Also, some may involve certain science or computer classes before admittance. Shorter programs lasting 4-6 months are offered by vocational schools; however, the Commission on Dental Accreditation does not accredit these programs.

Through licensure or registration, most states make regulations regarding the tasks that dental assistants are able to do. It may be necessary to pass a written or practical test. State schools offer licensure or registration through courses lasting 10-12 months that meet the State’s requirements. Further education may also be necessary in several states for maintenance of licensure or registration. Dental assistants can perform delegated tasks from a dentist in a few states.

Dental assistants perform complex radiological duties in certain states where various requirements have been adapted. In more than 30 states, requirements can be fulfilled by completing the Radiation Health and Safety examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Some states also require completion of a state radiology course.

Dental assistants can become certified in more than 30 states where the DANB certification exam is accredited and necessary. Registration is also offered by additional organizations, often at the State level. An assistant’s credentials and professional competence are recognized when they become certified, and may be beneficial when looking to be hired. Prospects can qualify to take the DANB by completing an accredited dental assisting program or by experience—2 years for full-time and 4 years for part-time. It is also necessary for applicants to obtain an up-to-date CPR certification card. For yearly recertification, continuing education credits must be earned.

Promotion opportunities are limited for a dental assistant without further education. Positions such as office managers, dental-assisting instructors, and product sales representatives are achieved by dental assistants. With continuing education, dental hygiene is another option. To many individuals, the job of a dental assistant serves as a bridge that connects basic and entry-level training with more advanced and higher paying occupations.

Dental Assisting Job and Employment Opportunities

The prospects for this job should be exceptional. Compared to the average for all occupations, dental-assisting is proposed to grow much faster through the year 2012. Actually in this same year, this job is proposed to be one of the quickest growing occupations.

Several job openings will arise due to the growth of employment and the need to replace transferring assistants, retiring assistants, or others. Numerous positions are entry-level and offer on-the-job training.

The demand for dental services is driven by a growing population and better preservation of middle-aged and older adult’s natural teeth. Older dentists, who are less willing to hire assistants, are being replaced by new graduates, who are more likely to hire assistants. Plus, as dentists become busier and need adequate time to perform profitable procedures, they are expected to hire more assistants to perform regular tasks.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, dental assistants on average were earning $13.10 with the middle 50% earning from $10.35 to 16.20 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.45 an hour. On the other hand, the highest 10 percent earned more than $19.41 an hour.

Various practices will cause benefits to differ significantly. Full-time employment benefits may be conditional. According to the American Dental Association, the majority of assistants working for a private practitioner were given paid vacation time. The ADA revealed that 90% of part-time as well as full-time dental assistants were given dental coverage.

Seasoned professionals may earn more than the figures quoted above.