How to Become a Dental Assistant

dental assistantThe dental assistant duties are numerous. They help with clerical tasks, as well as appointment scheduling and record keeping. Patient payments usually go through the dental assistant.

Supply ordering falls to them as well. Inventory of office supplies and billing are also the domain of the dental assistant. Patient medical records are managed by the dental assistant as well. When you arrive at your dental office, it is the dental assistant who pulled your file for the dentist.

Dental Assistant Job Duties

Dental assistant jobs involve a variety of duties, many of which are behind the scenes as mentioned above, but some are with the patients. For instance, the dental assistant job description includes chair-side duties.

When your dentist needs a tool or a dental material, it is the dental assistant who locates and provides it. The suction hose, which keeps you from drowning in your own saliva, is manned by the dental assistant.

But they also perform your x-rays and make impressions of your teeth. Instrument sterilization and compound mixing for your cleanings and fillings are done by the dental assistant as well.

Dental Assistant Education

In order to prepare for dental assistant duties, you must first get your high school diploma. Take as many biology and chemistry courses as you can. If your school offers courses that give you practice in an office setting, take those as well. But typically the dental assistant learns on the job.

Many dental assistants are opting to either go to a dental assistant program at a college or university, or to find a program through a technical institute or vocational school.

Typically, a program can be completed in one to two years. Certification and licensure are required, but the specifics vary from state to state. Certified dental assistants are in a good position to find a job that allows them to develop their dental assistant resume.

Certification is overseen by DANB (Dental Assisting National Board). Continuing education is also offered through the American Dental Assistants Association.

Coursework will cover business office training, CPR-certification, radiology, and chair-side assisting. Clinical hours will be included in your training.

Dental Assistant Jobs

Once you begin applying for dental assistant jobs, you will likely be working in a private office. Some dental assistants work for clinics, hospitals, public health departments, and even dental schools. But the bulk of dental assistants work in private offices.

Detail-oriented individuals who are decisive thinkers will do well in this position. You are responsible for keeping accurate, detailed records, which will become the backbone of the patient’s treatment plan and future decision-making.

Accurate records are critical to patient care. But you must also be highly organized and an excellent communicator. You are often the liaison between the patient and the dentist.

Empathy and concern for others are also important traits. Most people do not like going to the dentist and experience a fair amount of anxiety just sitting in the waiting room.

Dental Assistant or Dental Hygienist

Many people think that a dental hygienist and dental assistant are the same position. They are similar, but the hygienist has more training and often commands a slightly higher salary.

The dental assistant enjoys a lot of job flexibility. Many offices are offering weekend and evening appointments, which allows dental assistants the opportunity to work a flex schedule or even part-time.

In fact, 40% of dental assistant jobs are part-time. The work environment requires the donning of gloves, eyewear masks, and scrubs to protect the dental assistant from exposure to infection or illness.

They also follow safety precautions to minimize exposure from radiographic equipment. But in general, their work environment is clean and well-lit, does not involve heavy lifting, and is considered safe.

The Future of Dental Assisting

Dental assistant jobs are rewarding. Forbes Magazine just placed it at the top of the 15 best jobs for young people list. With thousands of openings annually and an average salary of more than $30,000, this is a good field to consider if you are interested in dental health, strong in science, and possess good communication and organizational skills.

It is not time-consuming to prepare for yourself academically dental hygienist jobs, and unlike the dentist you will work for, you won’t exit school with hundreds of thousands of dollars of school loan debt.