Becoming a Dental Assistant in Ohio
Dental assistants are basically individuals who assist dental operators to carry out both simple and complex procedures on patients. Their job description can be broadly classified into clinical and administrative duties. Particularly in the state of Ohio, this is a flourishing career. With minimum training and qualifications, you can earn a good annual income.
The clinical duties of a dental assistant involve applying topical anesthetics, arranging all dental instruments and medications, handling the instruments to dentist during treatment, conducting post-treatment procedures supervised by the dentist, mixing materials and preparing cements and filings, sterilizing instruments and using the suction system to keep patient’s mouth dry. As a dental assistant, it will also be your job to educate patients regarding oral hygiene such as right brushing and flossing technique. You will be in charge of following infection control techniques and maintaining a sterile work environment.
Your administrative duties while assisting the dentist would be to answer phone calls and set up appointments, contacting the vendors and purchasing department, maintaining patient’s treatment records, stocking supplies and completing insurance forms. You will be expected to oversee preventive maintenance of dental equipment. It is important for dental assistants to be friendly as their administrative duties include greeting patients and escorting them to the doctor’s chamber from the waiting room.
While these are some of the basics duties, what you might be expected to do on the job may vary. The job description differs based on the size of practice. Some dentists prefer to have 2 different medical assistants to conduct the clinical and administrative jobs.
The aforementioned list was for general dental assistant and there are options to expand your horizon and specialize in a particular field. Extended duties may include applying pit and fissure sealants and applying topical fluoride treatments. Handling periodontal dressing, teeth polishing, removing surgical sutures, taking x-rays and bite impressions may be included in your job.
While working with general dentists includes a wide variety of tasks, the nature of job changes when you work with pediatric dentists, periodontists, orthodontists or oral surgeons. Depending on which specialist you choose to work under, there are different types of dental assistants. They have been discussed below.
1. Orthodontic Dental Assistant
If you choose this specialization, your job will include placing and ligating arch wires, orthodontic ligature ties and orthodontic separators. You will prepare the patient’s teeth for bonding and be responsible for removing excess cements, orthodontic bands, orthodontic brackets and attachments. This will require you to familiarize with ultrasonic scalers, hand instruments and other dental equipment. You will also have to select orthodontic brackets.
2. Dental Sedation Assistant
As a dental seduction assistant, you will be responsible for adding medications and fluid to IVs and removing IV lines. You will also have to monitor patients undergoing general anesthesia and learn to monitor equipment like electrocardiograms and pulse oximeters.
3. Periodontist Dental Assistant
If you work with a periodontist, you will be expected to have knowledge of autoclaves, model trimmers, lathes, vacuum presses, intra-oral cameras and radiograph machines. You may have to apply non-caustic and non-aerosol topical agents and conduct post-extraction and periodontal dressings.
4. Dental Assistant to Oral Surgeon
You will be assisting an oral surgeon at all times, during treatment and surgical processes. Your job description will include preparing and handing dental equipment to the doctor. You will have to schedule surgical consultation and also develop dental radiographs.
5. Prosthodontic Dental Assistant
This job entails fabricating mouth and making diagnostic impressions. You be asked to perform acrylic repairs under dentist’s supervision and trim dental casts. As a prosthodontic dental assistant, you have to prepare materials and set up instrument trays for the doctor.
According to the Ohio State Dental Board, which regulates dentistry, dental assistant radiography and dental hygiene, there are 3 different levels of dental assisting:
-Basic Qualified Personnel
- OCDAC Certified Ohio Dental Assistant or DANB Certified Dental Assistant
- Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary
Below is a detailed explanation of each of these and what the specific requirements of each of the levels of dental assistance are.
Basic Qualified Personnel
Called BQP in short, this type of dental assistant should be trained by a licensed dentist. Their training must entail a pre-determined series of instruction from a educational institute. Experience can be attained through in-office training.
Along with the aforementioned training, basic qualified personnel must meet a few requirements. Failing to do so will mean that they cannot perform certain activities such as monitoring the nitrous oxide minimal sedation.
In order to be a BQP, you must be of minimum 18 years of age and complete a basic life-supporting course. You should have at least 2 years of practice and 3,000 hours of dental assisting experience. Graduation from a CODA-accredited dental assisting program is preferred. Otherwise, you shall complete a 6-hour course in nitrous oxide monitoring and pass the board approved examination.
You should remember that all dental health care employees must present evidence of immunization against hepatitis B virus. Failure to do so can result in loss of job.
OCDAC Certified Ohio Dental Assistant or DANB Certified Dental Assistant.
Both of these relevant certifications are recognized by the Ohio State Dental Board. If you have either of these, you are qualified to conduct procedures such as placement of pit and fissure sealant. The course in pit and fissure sealants includes 6 hours of clinical instruction and didactic instruction of 2 hours.
You can also perform coronal polishing if you complete a board approved training program. You have to pass a standardized test after a skill assessment test. Another option could be passing the DANB Coronal Polish exam.
Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary
In order to qualify for an Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary, you must graduate from a reputed EFDA training course accredited by either the Commission on Dental Testing in Ohio or the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools’ Higher Learning Commission.
You should enroll in a dental assisting program offered by a vocation, technical or dental school. These courses are usually 9 to 11 months long and require you do prepare coursework which cover not only the clinical aspect but the administrative feature of dental assisting as well. These programs also end with a clinical externship and therefore completely prepare graduates for entry level jobs.
Based on data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the average annual income of a dental assistant was $34,921 in 2014. The top 25% of the industry professionals earned about $41,226. The entry-level employees earned comparatively less. Their yearly salary was $26, 520. In general, salary of dental assistants varied immensely all over the state. Qualification, experience and city of residence played a major role.
In the metropolitan cities of Ohio, the difference is quite visible. For example, the salary can range from as low as $26,866 in Steubenville to as high as $38,331 around Columbus for 2 people of similar caliber.
According to forecast posted by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, dental assistant jobs are expected to increase 20.5% from the year 2010 to 2020. This is more than double the level of growth anticipated for the entire state. In fact, the rate is higher in the largest metropolitan cities of this state. Toledo area will experience a 23.3% increase in jobs while the Dayton area will enjoy 22.3% growth rate.
Ohio is one of the best locations for dental assistant. According to data from 2013, the Columbus region has the highest number of yearly job openings. Total 416 jobs become available in Ohio each year. 59 of them are expected to be available in this metropolitan city.
Conditions for Carrying Out Certain Functions Without Dentist Supervision
As mentioned in previous section, any individual who has DANB, OCDAC or EFDA certification can perform certain functions. However, some of them shall always be supervised by a licensed dentist. The dental assistance can conduct some functions, for over 15 consecutive days, without any supervising dentist’s presence if the following conditions are met:
1. The medical assistant or Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary shall have minimum 2 years of experience. Another alternative is if he/she has 3,000 working hours of experience.
2. He must successfully complete a course approved by the board to identification and prevention of common medical emergencies.
3. If the supervisor evaluates his skills and allows him to perform functions on his own, it is permissible.
4. He can perform the function if the supervising dentist attended and examined the patient within the past one year. There is a similar rule where it is alright for the assistant to attend the patient if the supervising dentist completed and evaluated patient’s dental and medical history during last 12 months to determine that he or she was in medically stable condition.
5. Some supervisors may have written rules and protocols regarding what is and is not allowed for the dental assistant in emergency situation in absence of the doctor.
6. The dental assistant can conduct procedures if the patient is notified beforehand that the dentist is absent. Note that a dental assistant or EFDA is not allowed to diagnose patient’s dental care status.
7. It is allowed if the dental assistant is under contract with, or it employed by, a licensed dentist or a government entity to provide assistance in public schools.
8. Parents or guardians of minor patients need to be informed that the dental doctor will not be present. They should also be informed that the assistant’s training has limitations and he/she cannot treat any other serious dental issues which could exist.
Job of a dental assistant is limited mainly to the dentist’s office when he helps run the practice smoothly. Dentists hire an assistant to handle simpler tasks so that he can concentrate on the more expensive procedures and treatments. There is no doubt that the job is important and its significance is only going to grow with time.
In order to stand out as a good assistant, you have to possess certain skills. One of the most essential traits is reliability. In this case, it refers to a person’s ability to work with others. You will have to work directly under the supervising dentist and thus be considered an important part of the office. Therefore, you must be careful and avoid making mistakes.
Manual dexterity is another critical factor that potential employees seek. Your job description is diverse and your role in the office will require you to do multiple tasks. You have to assist procedures and also handle the equipment being used. Sometimes, the supervising doctor may even permit you to conduct minor procedures.
It is true that you do not need any formal training to get an entry level dental assisting job but it is wise to enroll in a good program and train yourself. There are several dental assisting programs around Ohio that you can attend. There are many offices that will ask for a certain period of on-the-job training. This will help the dental assistant acquaint with the different working styles and requirements.
Your ability to work in a team is also something that will be assessed. You will work with other colleagues at office and so you must be ready to work comfortably in teams. You can take the job as a full-time commitment, or you can become a part-time dental assistant. Statistics suggest that more than one-third of the dental assistants work on a part-time basis.
There is no doubt this is an excellent career option. Especially if you live in Ohio, there are hundreds of training options followed by abundance of job opportunities. If you can train well and obtain a reputed certification, no one can hinder your career growth. In fact, as you spend more time on the job and gather experience, your income will increase significantly.