The dental assistant is an essential part of any dental practice. Let’s learn about how you can train for this exciting and respected career in the state of Michigan!
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Dental assistants are responsible for carrying out a variety of different tasks. These professionals do so much, that it is impossible to think of a dental office running without them! The dental assistant’s duties generally include: scheduling appointments for patients, ensuring conflicts do not arise; making sure that patients are comfortably positioned in the dental chair, and feel relaxed and confident about their treatment; properly preparing the work area and patients for dental procedures and treatments; properly sterilizing dental instruments; giving detailed instructions to patients on how to practice good oral hygiene and maintain sound oral health; keeping accurate and organized patient/dental treatment records; under the dentist’s direction, completing specific lab duties (such as taking tooth impressions) and processing patient x-rays; using special equipment such as suction hoses to keep the patient’s mouth dry during procedures; handing instruments to the dentist while he or she is carrying out procedures; and making billing and payment arrangements with patients.
States vary as to other specific duties a dental assistant may carry out. In Michigan, there are two main types of dental assistant: the RDA (Registered Dental Assistant) and the OJT DA (Dental Assistant who has been trained on-the-job). We will focus on the Registered Dental Assistant in this article. Being a properly educated and trained Registered Dental Assistant will open up a great many more opportunities. Registered Dental Assistants in Michigan are highly trained. They are able to carry out many additional duties by the instruction of the dentist, including: suture removal; in preparation for procedures that involve acid etching, polishing specific teeth using a slow speed handpiece; carrying out temporary cementation of temporary crowns and bands, as well as their removal; exposing dental radiographs; placement of periodontal dressings, and removal of these dressings; carrying out testing of pulp vital; sizing temporary bands and crowns; oral cavity inspection using mouth mirror; after a prophylaxis, applying anticariogenics; taking excess cement off supragingival surfaces; placing and removing non-metallic temporary restorations; and placing and removing rubber dams.
Where Do Dental Assistants Work?
The vast majority of dental assistants work for dentists in dental practices. They carry out duties in both the administrative and clinical components of the practice.
In order to become a Registered Dental Assistant in Michigan, you will need to successfully complete a properly accredited dental assisting education program. The program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association (ADA), and meet the requirements of the Michigan Board of Dentistry. There are accredited programs in many different Michigan locations.
When you have finished your program, you will have to apply to the Michigan Board of Dentistry to complete the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) exam. When you apply to write this exam, you are also automatically applying for licensure in the event that you pass it. You will have to pay a $100 application fee, which can be rendered by check or money order payable to the State of Michigan. You will need to have your final transcripts from your dental assistant education program mailed to the Michigan Board of Dentistry. Make sure that this is done directly from the school. You will also need to have CPR certification, and provide a copy of this certification to the Board. Your program director will also have to complete the Verification of Training and Competency in the Application and Removal of a Dental Dam form. This form can be found within the application. You will need to pass a criminal background check. This includes fingerprinting. Make sure that the Board receives your exam application at least 45 days before the exam is to be written. You will receive notification of the success of your application, as well as information on when you are to write the exam. You should have this information at least 14 days prior to the exam date.
The Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) exam has two parts: a written part, which is two hours in length, and a clinical part, which is also two hours in length. The clinical part of the exam includes temporary crown skills, as well as amalgam restoration. You will be required to earn a minimum score of 75% on the written component of the exam. You should receive the results of your exam by mail within about six to eight weeks of taking it.
After you have successfully completed an accredited education program and passed the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) exam, you will have licensure to practice as a Registered Dental Assistant in Michigan.
As a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA), you will need to maintain their license through periodic renewal. This will involve the completion of continuing education hours, several of which must be on clinical issues. You will also be required to maintain your CPR certification.
You may be wondering about what you will learn during your dental assistant education program. Examples of courses dental assistant programs usually require include: dental materials; various applied sciences; medical emergencies; clinical dental assisting; preventive dentistry; infection control; dental specialties; dental radiology (lab and theory); dental office management; communication, ethical, and legal issues for the dental assistant; oral pathology, pharmacology, and anatomy; Registered Dental Assistant expanded functions; and others. You will also be required to successfully carry out substantial clinical practice. The program can typically be completed in three semesters of full-time study, or six semesters of part-time study (if the school offers a part-time option).
Your dental assistant education and training program might give you access to a practice exam in preparation for the one you will have to write for licensure. It may also give you guidance and advice with respect to job searching.
Excellent organizational skills: Dental assistants need excellent organizational skills for many different areas of their work, including making sure that they have the proper tools on hand for the dentist during the given treatment.
Dexterity:Dental assistants must have the dexterity needed to be precise with their work. Ability to pay close and consistent attention to detail: Dental assistants must be detail-oriented in order to properly follow the provided protocols and rules.
Well-developed interpersonal skills: Dental assistants need to have outstanding interpersonal skills in order to deal professionally and compassionately with patients.
Strong listening skills: Dental assistants must have excellent active listening skills. They must carefully listen to patients, their dentist, and co-workers.
As a dental assistant, you might decide to find a job with a dental specialist (such as an orthodontist, periodontist, pediatric dentist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, or endodontist). If you work in such a specialist office, you will probably be required to undergo a certain amount of on-the-job training to gain the extra knowledge and skills necessary in that field. Let’s go over some of the details of several of these specialist fields:
Dental assistants working for orthodontists: As you already know if you have ever had braces, orthodontists specialize in teeth straightening, as well as the realignment of jaws. These specialized dentists use dental appliances and braces to achieve these ends. Orthodontics is a rapidly growing field, making it a promising one for upcoming dental assistants.
As a dental assistant working for an orthodontist, you will have many different duties. For example, you will record information on the oral health history of the patient, and make sure that he or she is comfortable until the orthodontist sees him or her. You will also likely create tooth impressions. These tooth impressions are utilized in designing orthodontic hardware for individual patients. You will also sterilize equipment, prepare tools that will be needed in each appointment, hand the tools to the doctor during treatments and examinations, take x-rays from patients, and remove stitches. Dental assistants in orthodontic practices often also must carry out administrative duties, including patient records maintenance, receiving payments, billing patients, and setting appointments.
Dental assistants working for pediatric dentists: Pediatric dentists are dentists who specialize in only treating children. Pediatric dental assistants must carry out all the usual dental assistant duties, in addition to a number of tasks that are specific to a pediatric practice. These special duties might include applying dental sealants, and carefully teaching patients about good oral health practices. You will probably also be required to arrange for booster seats for children, provide smaller tools, and modify equipment settings when necessary. Dental assistants working for pediatric dentists must be willing to supervise children when they are being treated.
Dental assistants working for periodontists: A periodontist is a specialist dentist who focusses on the mouth’s gums, tissues, and bones. A dental assistant working for a periodontist will assist during oral treatment focussing especially on those areas. Dental assistants in this setting will provide assistance during procedures, including surgical tasks, and will be responsible for administrative duties, as well. You will need to prepare all equipment needed for surgical procedures before the procedures begin. This includes proper sterilization of the equipment, in order to prevent infection. You will also greet patients as they arrive, and record their details in relation to the treatment at hand. After that, you will be required to escort the patients to dental rooms and have them seated in the dental chairs. The dental assistant is then required to hand the tools as they are needed to the periodontist. After the procedure has been completed, the dental assistant must give people advice and instruction on oral hygiene as they recover. The administrative duties these dental assistants are often responsible for include dealing with phone calls, greeting patients, and scheduling appointments. It is also common for them to work in laboratories. In the laboratory setting, they carry out and develop x-rays. They also create plaster models of the mouth.
What is a Dental Assistant’s Typical Day?
A dental assistant’s typical day will depend to a great degree on his or her particular workplace, and on whether the practice he or she works in is a specialty practice. Even in a single general dental practice, duties can vary significantly from day to day as a result of different patients with different problems being seen, and different procedures being needed. Generally speaking, dental assistants usually arrive at the often and begin their day around 30 to 45 minutes before the other staff. They need to do this in order to have time to stock and prepare for the day. It is up to the dental assistants to ensure that the rooms are properly prepared, and that the needed procedural materials, x-rays, and charts are ready. There are usually a large number of things that need to be prepared for each individual patient and each individual procedure. It is important to remember that dental assistants often assist the staff at the front desk.
In the United States, dental assistants make a median annual salary of $35,980 ($17.30 per hour). The majority of dental assistants work on a full-time basis.
Salaries for dental assistants in Michigan vary from location to location. Below are some examples of median dental assistant salaries in various Michigan towns and cities. Note that these numbers do not include possible benefits and bonuses:
Dearborn Heights: $34,489
Ann Arbor: $36,066
Grand Rapids: $34,264
Battle Creek: $32,909
Sterling Heights: $34,489