The job of a dental assistant is probably one of the most comprehensive in the healthcare industry.
If they are good at what they do, they usually increase the efficiency of the dentist in practice.
Dental assistants need strong communication skills, good dexterity, and superior organizational skills.
In most states, dental assistants don’t need any formal education except for a postsecondary non-degree award.
Other states require dental assistants to pass an examination and complete an accredited program.
They can also obtain additional certifications and qualifications.
Article Table of Contents
What Does a Dental Assistant Do
The job of a dental assistant is one of the most complex but least frustrating in the industry.
Their tasks include anything from making x-rays to sterilizing instruments, and even handling payments and keeping appointments.
There may be a lot of stress going around in the office of a dentist, but the atmosphere and work environment there is a lot more relaxed than in a hospital.
- Dealing with patients and ensuring they are comfortable during the procedures.
- Preparing patients for treatment.
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments, and handing them to the doctor during the procedures.
- Getting the work area ready and completing a variety of lab tasks.
- Keeping the mouths of patients dry during the procedures and teaching proper dental hygiene.
- Performing x-rays and using various equipment such as suction hoses.
- Taking patients’ blood pressure and pulse, teeth models for the study.
- Completing various lab and office management tasks.
- Scheduling appointments and keeping records of dental treatments.
- Billing patients and processing payments as well as communicating with patients and suppliers.
Some dental assistants may get additional certifications and enough experience to perform one or a few more complicated procedures.
As soon as dental assistants can perform some of these tasks, they may receive a higher wage and deal with superior tasks:
- Sealant application.
- Fluoride application.
- Coronal polishing.
- Topical anesthetics application.
Dental assistants need excellent organizational skills to keep tabs on their tasks and ensure they are fulfilled.
Also, these professionals have to be quick learners.
Dental assistants need excellent communication and listening skills.
They need to understand patients and be able to relate to them.
Assistants also need to be empathetic and compassionate as well as have a certain moral standing.
Dental assistants should also be detail-oriented.
To perform their tasks, they need a good level of dexterity.
The last, but not least, dental assistants need a very strong stomach.
How to Become a Dental Assistant
Since the salary and job of a dental assistant aren’t the highest in healthcare, there aren’t many requirements candidates must meet either.
They do need some educational level, and they can obtain some certifications.
They perform a lot of tasks, including administrative duties and regarding hygiene and assisting the doctors.
See the full guide on how to become a dental assistant here.
Training and Qualifications
There isn’t any official dental assistant training.
Usually, the dentist or someone appointed by them teaches the assistants about the inner procedures and help them understand what they should do.
From there, dental assistants should learn everything they have to do on their own.
But the environment is usually friendly, so they can learn all they need quickly.
To achieve additional qualifications, dental assistants may obtain a number of certifications, licenses, and registrations.
They can help the assistants move up the career ladder.
The most common certification of this type is the CDA (Certified Dental Assistant).
The exam for it is held by the DANB (Dental Assisting National Board) and requires the assistants to have a high school diploma or to complete an accredited program together with some on-the-job training.
Also, CPR certification is mandatory for dental assistants.
Unlike other similar position, dental assistants don’t necessarily need to have experience for the job.
The qualities and skills are what is considered in the interview.
Experience can be important, but it’s inferior to personal capabilities.
Experience matters more for people who worked as a dental assistant for many years.
With experience, they can get a different job easier than someone without any.
Dental assistants with more experience in the area can obtain the following opportunities:
- Specialty practices (orthodontics, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, dentofacial orthopedics, etc.).
- Solo or group dental practices and offices.
- Dental school clinics.
- Public health dentistry.
- Hospital dental clinics.
- Selling of dental products.
- Insurance companies.
- Teaching positions in community colleges, technical institutes, and vocational schools.
For the most part, dental assistants work full-time, although part-time schedules can also be available pretty often.
Additionally, they mostly work in dental offices.
In rare instances, these professionals work in a different industry, such as education or sales.
With recent oral health developments, the employment rate for dental assistants should increase by 18% until 2024.
Also, since the dental and general health are closely related, there is a rather positive job outlook for the position.
As of 2015, the average salary of dental assistants was around $36,000, or $17.30 per hour.
PayScale reports that the median salary of a dental assistant is $31,112.
Those who work for more than 20 years in the industry, can earn $40,000 per year.
However, very few people choose to work for this long in the position.
Still, the position of a dental assistant is one of the most sought-after in healthcare.
A dental assistant is one of the least stressful jobs in healthcare.
It doesn’t require much education and experience and comes with a wide range of advancement opportunities.
Dental assistants have a wide array of responsibilities, but they can get a decent pay as well as learn the majority of their duties on-the-job in a friendly work environment.