People today, are highly concerned about their teeth. And hence, they are ready to spend enormous amount of money to maintain their health. Not only the teeth’s health, but also their look has become of utmost important for majority of people which has led to the soared demand as well as the business of dentists and jobs related to dentistry. One such job is of dental assistant that is too demanding nowadays. If you love teeth, if you do not feel good when you or your friends’ do not have white ivories, and also if you love helping others, then, without any doubt, dental assistant is the career option you must go for. But do you know how to go for it? What are the requirements to become a dental assistant? And the most important one, how much do dental assistants make? We will look into all the answers in this article, just read out and enlighten yourself and decide whether this job is for you or not.
Who Is A Dental Assistant?
Before diving into the details of a dental assistant, let’s have a look as who is a dental assistant? Dental assistant is a person who helps dentists in their work. The main aim of a dental assistant may vary time to time, but the core work for him is to increase the work quality of oral health care that is provided by the dentists. Dental assistants are the prominent members of a dental care team. So, if you have great coordination between your hands and mind, you love jobs with responsibility, you love serving others and you have superb communication skills, then, you are the perfect candidate for this job.
There are also various other positive aspects of becoming a dental assistant and these aspects have numerous benefits. For example, you are going to have a choice to work in flexible hours, which means it is not a 9-5 type of job which are mostly boring. So, if you are not an early riser or love working in the second half of the day, dental assistance is one job you can go for. It is not a field job, so you may expect excellent working conditions, because, to get the best out of you, working conditions play an important role. Along with excellent working conditions, you may expect a great work culture. With increased awareness among the people, they are now highly focused on taking care of their teeth. Because of this, the demands of dentists and dentistry related jobs like for dental assistants have increased manifolds; therefore, becoming a dental assistant may be a great opportunity and also a feasible option for you. If you are considering dental assistance as a career then now is the time to go for it and change your dreams into reality. Also, dental assistance is one of those jobs that do not require very high qualifications. Anyone can go for the certifications and accreditations that qualify you as a dental assistant. These are of very short durations and are also not very lengthy. In this article, we will also look in details about the educational requirements that are required for you to become a dental assistant.
What Does A Dental Assistant Do?
While the work for dental assistants can vary from office to office, but in general, dental assistants’ primary job include the preparation of the equipments, instruments and patients. In addition of doing these jobs, a dental assistant may sometime also have to remove or insert the equipments or some material from the mouth of the patients, if needed, apply the topical anesthetics, or even processing of the x-rays of the patients.
There may be times when a dentist may perform a serious surgery or a procedure. During these serious surgeries or procedures, a dental assistant has to help the dentists. The times of surgeries and procedures are very crucial as it requires a lot of concentration from the side of the dentist; hence, it also increases the responsibility on the shoulders of the dental assistant. The jobs which a dental assistant may have to perform during these serious surgeries and procedures include the application of suction or rinsing, handling of the accurate instruments to the dentists etc. It is very important that a dental assistant handles the correct instrument, because mistake in performing this procedure, may lead to a severe damage to the patient. Therefore, it is very important that dental assistant have a sound knowledge of all the instruments used during these serious surgeries and procedures.
However, primarily a dental assistant’s job is to help dentist, but there may be times when he/ she have to work simultaneously in two to three areas. Therefore based on it, a dental assistant duty can be classified into various areas.
The first job that a dental assistant may have to perform is to help the patients who have come to the clinic or hospital for the treatment. In assisting patients, the different responsibilities may include:
- Application of anesthetic creams or gels to gums and anti-cavity agents on the patient’s teeth
- If dentist is examining a patient, the assistant may have to hand over the instruments that a dentist may require.
- Take X-rays of the patients who have come for the treatment, and also process those X-rays.
- Removal of sutures
- Sterilizing and laying out of the dental instruments, which the dentist will have to use during the examination of the patient
- Making patients feel comfortable on their arrival and also preparing them for the dental examination aftermath.
These are some responsibilities that are related to dental examination and helping the dentist. Apart from these responsibilities, a dental assistant may also perform some non medical related task. Let’s look at them also.
Working in a Laboratory
Apart from helping dentist in their work during the examination and surgeries, dental assistants at many times may work in the laboratory examining and performing various task related to dentistry. Some of the work which a dental assistant may perform in a lab can be:
- Execution of orthodontic measurements of the patients
- Polishing and cleaning of mouth guards, dentures and numerous other detachable appliances, and
- Making of mouth impressions and also of plaster casts from the teeth of patients.
People, sometimes, get confused as who performs the task of teeth cleaning, a dental assistant or a dental hygienist. Usually teeth cleaning is done by a dental hygienist, because it requires an additional training. Majority of the times, a dental assistant only, after gaining valuable experience in the field, goes for the job of a dental hygienist. They go for the additional education that is required to become a dental hygienist, and post training, they can even earn better as they were getting before becoming one.
Even sometimes, dental assistants may have to look after the official works, if required. Some of the responsibilities that a dental assistant may have to hold in the office include:
- Placing of the order or receiving of the office stationery and supplies
- Setting up of patients appointments and also answering their phone calls
- Process in-office cash and issuing of bills
- Taking care and greeting the patients on their arrivals and also processing the new client information.
- Managing, setting up and retrieving the patients files
So, these are the various tasks, a dental assistant may have to perform on his job. As mentioned above, there may be times that jobs will not be related to your core tasks like dentistry; therefore, you must be flexible to perform any type of task. Performing various task will not only make you smart but also will enhance your multi-tasking skills.
What It Takes To Become A Dental Assistant?
Now you are fully aware about what a dental assistant is and what his responsibilities are? So, now is the time to look as what it takes to become a dental assistant? What are the minimum qualifications you must possess if you want to pursue your career as a dental assistant? As you already know that you, as a dental assistant, will be working closely under a licensed dentist before, during and after the dental work. Moreover, your task will be more of helping the dentist, taking care of patients and other official work. Therefore, there are not any formal education requirements to start a career as a dental assistant. This means, anyone who loves such kind of work can go for dental assistant as their career option.
The road to become a dental assistant is not a tough one, but there are certain procedures that everyone has to follow. Much of the educational requirements, to become a dental assistant, depend on your decision as from where you are planning to continue your practice. As there are no formal academic requirements to be a dental assistant (DA), but still there are some places that may ask for the DAs to go for a specific licensure examination.
Typically, a dental assistant program takes around one to two years to complete. But again it solely depends on whether it is a degree program, certificate or a diploma. All these programs prepare students for the certification or licensing exams which they are going to take and also provide real time experience which the students may experience in clinical settings.
By taking these degree or diploma courses, you will be made fully aware about the technical aspects of your job. To make yourself fully aware about all the steps and all the critical questions which you may face during your journey, read on and change your dreams of becoming a dental assistant into reality.
Go For A Dental Assistant Program
There are numerous dental assistant programs that are available in various technical and community colleges. These programs may take one to two years to complete and can award you an associate’s degree, diploma or a certificate. Almost all the programs provide real time clinical settings experience to the students. The basic courses offered during the program include:
- Dental radiography
- Dental pharmacology
- Dental anatomy
- CPR & First Aid
- Dental Procedures
- Dental Office Administration
It is not mandatory to go for a program, if your state does not ask for it, as you can also learn these skills during your on-the-job training. But it is always highly recommended that you take a program, because it may help you in finding your first job and also your marketability will be increased.
Complete Certifications Or Licensing Requirements
As you are already know that the certifications and licensure may vary from state to state. Therefore, it is advisable that you contact your state dental board or visit the Dental Assistant National Board’s (DANB) website.
There are some states that require the candidates of dental assistants to pass the DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam. This CDA exam can be taken from any of the Pearson VUE test centers and is comprised of the following sections:
- Infection Control (ICE)
- General Chairside (GC), and
- Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
If, in case, you fail the exam, then you have two options, and you can go for either option depending on where you are planning to continue your practice. The first option for which you can go for is to retake the exam, but do not forget to check the state’s exam policy before you go for this option. Or the other choice you have is to go for more training modules and certifications. The more certifications and training modules you complete, the more are your chances to get employed as a dentist assistant.
There are various universities which offer a great educational program to become a dentist assistant. A thorough research will be a good idea before applying for any university or college, because not all university may fulfill your requirement criteria.
Salaries For Dental Assistants
Salary for dental assistants may vary from state to state. According to a recent survey by Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for the dental assistants is $34,740. Moreover, the top 10 percent in the field of dental assistants earn about $47,000. This comes to an average of $16 to $23 per hour that also depends on the locations of their jobs, and duties they are performing.
In general, the jobs in health care industry are dependable and highly secure. There are fair chances that the job sector for dentist assistant will grow about 25 percent between 2012 and 2022. Researches also have demonstrated the strong links between the oral and general health, and hence there are high chances of soaring dental field.
The job of dental assistants is great, as they enjoy a wide variety of task that are professional and possess responsibilities that are more than they are qualified for. Therefore, the more marketable you are as a dental assistant, the more chances you will get to grow in your field. The demand for dental assistants is at its peak, not only in public health clinics and private practices but also in the urban and rural settings. There are ample opportunities available, if you want to pursue your career as a dentist assistant. You do not have to worry at all, just go for it.