Starting work as a Dental Assistant is an excellent opportunity to begin your career in the health profession. To begin, educational and certification requirements will need to be met. You will perform a variety of tasks both assisting dental professionals and working directly with patients. If you're a well-rounded person and enjoy working with others, working as a Dental Assistant might be the perfect fit.
First and foremost, check with your states local Board of Dental Examiners for any requirements to qualify for a Dental Assistant position. The necessary process to become a Dental Assistant will vary by state. In some cases there may be no requirements beyond a high school diploma. Although in other states, certification or licensing may be necessary. In addition you should check local job opportunities and take note of job qualifications an employer might require. If you plan to advance your career in the dental field a college degree will be needed. It's also important to point out that higher education will help improve your odds of securing a job.
Next check to your local community colleges for degree programs geared towards dental health care. Typically you can earn an Associate degree within 2 years. Other options would be to find an accredited certification program offered through a vocational or technical training school that is approved by the Dental Assisting National Board. Certification programs can take 1 to 2 years of study to earn your degree or certification. During your course of study you can expect classroom learning time, laboratory activities and hands-on supervised practical experience. Your studies may include oral and general anatomy, physiology, radiology, dental materials and instruments, infection control, preventive dentistry and the overall dental profession. Other beneficial courses would include business management and human relations in addition to general studies like mathematics and sciences.
Once you have achieved your degree, license or certification you will then be able to work as a Dental Assistant in a professional Dentist office. As a Dental Assistant you may perform some or all of the following tasks:
- Assisting and preparing patients for treatment
- Organize and restock the work area for dental procedures
- Sterilize dental instruments and work stations
- Assist the Dentist during procedures by handling dental tools and suction hoses
- Processing x-rays and recording dental treatments
- Provide proper oral hygiene information to patients
- Coronal polishing, sealant and fluoride applications
- Front office duties scheduling appointments
- Customer billing and payment processes
The job responsibilities listed above will vary but as a Dental Assistant you should expect to have a variety of tasks to perform. In addition to your formal training you should be detail oriented and have strong organizational skills. Interpersonal communication and good listening skills are also important as you will be dealing with the patient as well as the Dentist and Hygienists.
Estimates show that jobs for Dental Assistants are expected to grow in the year to come faster than other occupations. Depending on your location, the average salary for a Dental Assistant can range from $32,000 - $40,000 per year. Most all Dental Assistants will find work at a Dentist Office yet there are Government job opportunities available too. If you plan to pursue a career as a Dentist or Hygienist starting out as a Dental Assistant will provide valuable real world experience to help further your career goals.