Dental assistant: the ultimate guide to becoming a dental assistant Skip to main content
Dentist and his dental assiatant smiling for camera

Dental assistant: the ultimate guide to becoming a dental assistant

If it has been your dream to become a member of a clinical team, then there is no reason for you not to. The tasks of a dental assistant are dedicated fully to serving patients alongside other specialty clinicians. A dental assistant handles the duties as pertains a dentist’s office. This also means that dental assistants are supervised by dentists, as well as dental hygienists.

What are the roles of a dental assistant?

Dental assistants perform many tasks, mostly under the directives of a dentist. The roles of different dental assistants can vary depending on the state of operation, and the dentist in charge. Even so, there are certain duties and responsibilities that are a dental assistant should handle:

  1. Organization and maintenance of the laboratory.
  2. Preparation of patients for oral check-ups.
  3. Customer/patient support – booking appointments, making follow-ups, oral aftercare including instructions for oral hygiene, keeping records of treatment, handling bills and payments.
  4. Preparation of treatment rooms – organizing and sterilizing instruments and tray setups, mounting radiographs and x-rays.

Does education matter?

To become a dental assistant, you must have a solid education background to back your professionalism. However, the requirements vary in different states. For some states, you cannot be assured of dental assistant job security without formally graduating from an accredited program. Some other states allow dental assistants to gather experience on-the-job.

Most dental assistant programs are offered in community colleges, as well as vocational or technical schools. The programs usually take 1 year, for the acquisition of a certificate or diploma. Longer programs go for 2 years for the acquisition of an associate’s degree but are uncommon. If you are interested in a dental assistant job as early as High school, consider taking biology, chemistry, and anatomy courses.

The education for dental assistants prepares them for the work environment. The programs include laboratory and classroom work. A lot is taught on teeth and oral hygiene. Supervised dental experience is also part of the program to provide more practical training on dentist work.

Important skillsets for a dental assistant

Other than graduating with a certificate or diploma in a dental assistant school near you, you need to gain certain skills and qualities for better performance. Here are some of the qualities and skills you need:

  1. Interpersonal skills – dentist assistants are closer to patients than dentists. Sensitivity to people’s emotions and ability to communicate empathetically will fuel you in the job.
  2. Organizational skills – you will need to be thorough in organizing the instruments for the dentist, as well as keep record of patients and treatments.
  3. Dexterity – the precision of the tools in the line of duty as a dental assistant will demand keenness to details. You must be good with your hands to handle the small parts of the body with maximum caution.

Job opportunities for dental assistants

The place of oral health in a society is quickly gaining acceptance. There is an increased demand for dental services, which is why more dental assistants are needed every day. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% increase in employment of dental assistants between 2018 and 2028. With Government, dentists, and physicians all open to hiring dental assistants, there is always an opportunity for new graduates.

What is the work environment for dental assistants?

Of 10 dental assistants, around 9 of them work in a dentist’s office. From the remaining, 2% work for the government and another 2% for a physician. This means that most of the job opportunities available for dental assistants will expose them to the work environment of a dentist. Luckily this merits job security for dental assistants. Without a dental assistant, a dental clinic cannot function smoothly, and a dentist cannot be as efficient.

Still, many dental assistants have to work full time. However, some of them may work in the evenings, and others on the weekends.

Dental Assistant Salary

After working hard to attain your dental assistant certification, it is natural to wonder about the pay of this job. Each state varies in their stipulation of how much a dental assistant should be paid. The salary also varies based on the tasks and duties delegated by the dentist.

The median annual wage for dental assistants is $38,660, given the lowest 10% earn below $26,940 and the highest 10% earn above $54,800. The salary also differs as per the industry you work in:

Government – $42,390

Dentists – $38,670

Physicians – $35,760

With all that information, you are now ready to be a dental assistant.

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