A career in dental assisting can be challenging and rewarding. To decide if this is the right career path for you, carefully consider the information available. Here is everything you should know before you decide that dental assisting is your career of choice. Learn which requirements that employer’s care about and what duties you should expect to take on daily.
What Exactly Do Dental Assistants Do?
A dental assistant has a massive range of duties. Expect to take on tasks that include caring for patients, operating machines such as x-rays and even keeping records. Essentially, they help the dentist with all of the small tasks that keep a dental practice running.
Although it may seem like a dentist office should have a dedicated secretary, Dental assistants must take part in tasks such as scheduling patients too.
On a daily basis a dental practice will need assistants to:
- Keep patients comfortable
- Prepare patients for procedures and treatment
- Clean all working areas
- Sterilize instruments
- Give instruments to doctors during procedures
- Use equipment during procedures such as suction hoses
- Instruct patients on practicing good oral hygiene
- Complete lab work including processing paperwork
- Schedule appointments
- Provide billing and payment options
- Keep accurate records for patients
In some states, dental assistants can also perform these tasks when working with a dental practice:
- Coronal polishing
- Flouride application
- Sealant application
- Topical anesthetic application
Coronal polishing is the gentle removal of soft deposits and a vital part in any standard teeth cleaning. Fluoride application is an anticavity process, and sealant application is an anti-cavity procedure that helps keep out food and bacteria. Dental assistants that can apply topical anesthetic applications provide a dentist the opportunity to spread their time out more evenly.
Work Environment and Safety
Dental assistants work almost exclusively in a privately owned dentist office, although there are a variety of franchise offices that work under a corporate umbrella. Unfortunately, many dental assistants only work part-time.
When working in a dentist office, an assistant will likely have a set schedule with the chance of occasionally working on weekend mornings or weekday evenings.
Not every state requires certification or graduation from an accredited program. In the states that don’t need any formal education, you can quickly begin developing your skills on the job. As long as you go on with a patient dentist, you can work under their supervision.
If you’re still in high school, consider taking courses for biology, anatomy, and chemistry.
For states that require graduation from a program or certification through passing an exam, you can usually find the program or courses you need at a 2-year college. Community colleges or vocational schools often offer complete programs.
Usually, accredited certification programs will take about a year to complete. The completion will result in receiving a certificate or a diploma. In the states where a dentists’ assistant has more duties, these programs can run as long as 2-years.
Before you sign up with any program be sure that the program carries accreditation with the American Dental Association. The Commission on Dental Accreditation is the section of the ADA that oversees programs that meet their standards.
When in school students should receive a mix of classroom and lab work where they can work with the jaws, teeth, and gums. School should also teach students how to clean tools and proper etiquette for interacting with patients.
What Qualities Do Dental Assistants Need?
To get started you need five essential skills:
- Detail oriented
- Listening skills
- People skills
- Organizational skills
Demand for New Talent
Fortunately for anyone looking to get into a dental practice within the next five years, employment opportunities for dental assistants should increase by at least 19 percent.
There is a high demand for new talent. Any dentist office needs multiple dental assistants. A dentist isn’t going to be able to function well-handling clients and juggling minor tasks without someone’s help.
As more people aim to keep their original teeth, there’s a greater need for dental assistants, and many dentists aspire to open a dentist office or dental practice of their own.
When working within a dental office, a dental assistant can make an average of $36,000 per year. Take into consideration that this varies based on the employer, region, and level of experience.
Benefits of Being a Dental Assistant
As a dentist assistant, you should expect a lot of variety, a level of personal satisfaction and an active level of work.
Many people find great satisfaction in helping people learn how to take better care of themselves and have improved smiles. Another primary benefit is that there’s a lot of different activities that you’ll cycle through during the day. There is no such thing as a dull day when working in a dentist office as a dental assistant.
Is It Worth Becoming a Dental Assistant?
In some instances, you may enjoy working in a dental office, and closely with a dentist but may not excel in some of the tasks. There are other opportunities in the field of dental practice outside of working as a dental assistant. Any dentist will have a definitive need for an assistant, and that need can bring a lot of satisfaction to your work.
Many people fit naturally into the setting of a dentist office and can work closely with a dentist comfortably. There’s the satisfaction of helping people; there’s room for advancement into both administrative fields and medicine. Entering into a training program is a great way to test the waters and see if the subject matter appeals to you.
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