According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the dental assistant is expected to be one of the fastest growing occupations in the next decade – over 105,000 new jobs are expected to be created in this career industry in the period up to 2018.
With only moderate dental assistant training required, an average annual salary of $32,000, and the likelihood of secure long term employment, this is a winning job worth considering!
Dental Assistant Job Responsibilities
The dental assistant works with dentist and often performs may tasks that may also be performed by the dentist himself (or herself). However, since this professional’s wage is significantly lower than the dentist’s, having him or her perform the task saves the customer (or the insurance company) money, since the associated costs are lower.
While providing support, a dental assistant also has numerous individual responsibilities. Some of the primary duties this dental professional would carry out include the following:
- Prepare patients for dental work performed by the dentist
- Sterilize and disinfect instruments
- Set up instrument tray
- Prepare materials for crowns, cavity fills, mouthpiece molds, and polish study casts
- Sit patient side to hand instruments to the dentist, spray and suction a patient’s mouth, and other support duties needed according to procedure
- Help the dentist with dental emergencies
- Schedule patient appointments
- Prepare patient bills and accept payments against balances owed
- Complete and file insurance forms on behalf of patients
- Meet with a patient to obtain medical and dental health information
- Record patient diagnosis and treatment plan in records
- Take patient diagnostic x-rays
- Provide patient with postoperative instructions
- Educate patients regarding proper oral hygiene
- Clean and polish removable appliances for patients
- Clean teeth and remove plaque for patients
- Apply fluoride protection to patient teeth
Coursework and Hands-On Training
To work in this role, you will need to complete all required education and dental assistant training. Along with classroom studies (that will cover things such as dental and medical terminology, anatomy, different dental equipment, appropriate work protocols, patient interaction, insurance claims, billing, patient records, and more) much of the course knowledge gained comes from time spent in a laboratory or clinical setting.
Through hands-on dental assistant training, you will learn how to make temporary crowns for the patient having a root canal or damaged tooth repaired, create mouth impression casts, clean and polish dental work, and the list goes on.
Other aspects of dental assistant training include learning about methods of sterilization and disinfecting equipment used by both the assistant and dentist, processing x-rays of teeth and surrounding skeletal anatomy, use and application of topical anesthetics to control or prevent pain, placement of rubber surgical dams used for dental surgery, and radiologic training, among many other responsibilities.
The bottom line is that dental assistant training and education will cover everything you need to become certified in this great career.
Completing Necessary Training and Education
There are many colleges, universities, dental schools, and other educational institutes that offer classroom study and hands-on training needed to work as a dental assistant. In fact, more than 200 dental schools in the United States have accreditation through the Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association, making it easy to find an excellent training program.
One particular aspect of dental assistant training and education is that with this career having a connection to the medical sector, a certified individual would need to learn about medical terminology and certain procedures along with education and training for dentistry. However, choosing the right educational institute would provide everything a person needs to know from both a dental and medical perspective.
Once the mandated dental assistant training is done, many states require a person to be certified before hiring. If you are pursuing this career, you will need to determine if the state in which you want to work is one that requires certification or not (much of this information is available at the Dental Assisting National Board).
To become a Certified Dental Assistant or CDA, the Dental Assisting National Board CDA examination would need to be taken and passed.
While a person could complete dental assistant training and go to work without being certified, at some point certification would be essential to career stability and advancement. However, the Dental Assisting National Board CDA examination which is required to become certified, cannot be taken until an individual has at least two years of hands-on training. With all criteria met, this person would possess extensive knowledge, experience, and expertise to perform duties proficiently.