Dental assisting is a rising lucrative field and rightly so. The number of dental assistants has been on the rise due to several reasons, including high employment rate, job stability and easy entry in to the job market. From scheduling appointments, accompanying dentists through their daily routine and specialized techniques and taking x-rays, dental assistants perform a number of tasks. Here is a guide on how you can learn about the steps that you need to become a dental assistant, components of how you can achieve success, available training programs, the salary and the overall work outlook.
Dental assistants can be mostly seen as members of the dental team that offer a wide scope of services that assist both dentists and the administrative staff. Most states require a formal licensure while others do not so this results in the paths of the workforce varying, which also means the work of the dental assistants may differ.
The duration of the program you will need to pursue in order to become a dental assistant can be between nine months and two years. Once you are done with your studies and pass the required certification, you will, as a dental assistant, be required to take on important responsibilities. The administrative functions include confirmation of appointments, scheduling of appointments, maintaining records of all patients and also having to order dental supplies.
You can earn up to $35,390 on average annually if you opt for a career in dental assistance. The top earning possibility could be $49,540. Although the level of experience hugely affects your salary prospects, however, the geographical aspect plays a huge role that can be both financially and professionally rewarding. If you are planning on pursuing dental assistance, you should know there are some states that will pay you more for the same work you do than others.
New Hampshire, Alaska, Minnesota, Massachusetts and North Dakota are the top five states where you can go for dental assistance and make great money with the highest going up to $51,750 and the minimum being $22,680.
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Dental Assistant?
Dental assistants are crucial members of the dental team that offer a wide range of services that help in both dental and administrative responsibilities. While it may not be required in some states, formal licensure is demanded in most states due to which the laws and paths of going about your job may vary. Hence, the responsibilities from state to state differ as well.
The field of dental assistance is expected to grow by 25% till 2022. The dental assistants who will fill these positions should be compassionate and knowledgeable. There are several reasons why this is. The health insurance policy has allowed patients to visit dentists more as they can afford it better. The other reason is that public awareness has grown tremendously about the bridge between the dental diseases and oral health. One of them includes the health insurance policy has expanded. The number of actively employed dental assistants in 2010 was 2890 but there is an ever-growing annual job rate of 3.17% and 165 annual job openings per year due to which the projected number of jobs will be 3950 by 2020. The states that were experiencing the most growth in job are ranked in the following order with Florida coming in ninth:
Once you have decided you want to choose this career path you as a student should make sure you meet a number of prerequisites before you enter the field. Here are the steps you should follow in order to make sure you are eligible for the field:
1. Choose The Best Path
When students complete a dental assistance program at either a community college or a technical school the program may take from one to two years to finish. It depends on whether you choose a certificate, diploma or associate’s degree. In addition to this, the lecture based teaching and the programs will require hands-on training and there will be several opportunities provided to you while you are in a clinical setting. Your coursework will mostly include:
• Oral anatomy
• Dental office administration
• Dental pharmacology
• Dental materials
• CPR and first aid
• Dental radiography
Though some states may not ask you to complete the academic program to initiate your career as a dental assistant, if you choose to complete it, you will have the upper hand and be top in the competition when it will come to landing your first job.
2. Doing The Externship
The other way by which you as a dental assistant can gain the required experience is by standing out from the competition and completing the externship. Several academic programs would provide you externships and would be a voluntary part of your coursework that would offer you invaluable training opportunities as a simulation of the real world.
In this duration, the students can improve their skills in several areas, which include chair side assisting, radiology, oral hygiene and dental pharmacology, oral anatomy and dental pathology. The students who wish to pursue specialized areas in dentistry example pediatric or orthodontic care may focus on the areas while they are doing their externships.
3. Find Your Focus
As a dental assistant, you can become an expert on several areas of oral hygiene and care. Along with that, general dentistry there are several other areas open for you based on the experience and education you as a dental assistant shall carry which includes pediatric dentistry, maxillofacial surgery, prosthodontics, endodontics, dentofacial orthodontics and periodontics.
4. Make Sure You Have The Required State Certification And Licensing Requirements
The required certifications and licensure requirements will vary from one state to another and you can learn a lot more about these mandatory requisites by getting in contact with the state’s dental board or you can visit the Dental Assistant National Board’s website. In the states where the certifications are highly necessary, you will be required to pass the Dental Assistant National Board’s Certified Dental Assistant’s (CDA) required exam. The exam is comprised of 320 questions that are administered at the Pearson VUE examination centers and will include the following:
• General Chairside
• Radiation health and safety
• Infection control
From the 900 points that are available, you as a candidate must score around 400 or above in order for you to be certified. The students who do not pass the test may either be allowed to take the exam again (unless the state demands additional coursework) or should be able to complete the certification preparation courses and training/externship before they retake their exam. Therefore, you would get the chance to retake the exam, being in Florida you would want to avoid the hassle.
5. Work On Getting The License
Apart from the Certified Dental Assistant’s exam, you may choose to complete the National Entry Level Dental Assistant’s test that is also held and administered by the Dental Assistant National Board. The students who are looking for work in specific dental assisting fields that are specialized may be able to undertake other certifications, which include
• Orthodontic Dental Assistant
• Preventive Functions Dental Assistant
• Restorative Functions Dental Assistant
6. Land An Entry-Level Job
The graduates should be able to choose from several jobs which can either include a general dentistry outlook or could be specialized. The field of dental assisting is one of the most rapidly growing occupations in the US. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the number of dental assistant vacancies that are bound to grow in the coming years is 25% , which is much higher than the overall job growth average if seen.
7. Update Your Education
A dental assistant’s education is never really over even when you get your degree. You should make sure you go back to school after a few years in the career in order advance in the degree and stay updated. If you have chosen to get the associate’s degree, the academic training you receive in those learning years can be used and transferred to your bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. The 4-year degree of dental hygiene could offer you many more opportunities and mobility in the field and increase your prospects of earning.
When one is opting for the associate’s degree, it is guaranteed you will be able to achieve a more holistic view of the field as compared to the certificates and diploma programs. The degree will give you a complete in-depth knowhow of how to go about your job as a dental assistant. You will have the choice of choosing between the general education coursework and the core crucial dental assisting course.
Although the dental assistant program does not offer a bachelor’s degree, you may be interested in improving and progressing your career can help get your credits transferred and give you the associate level education. You will be able to attain a four-year degree in dental hygiene. When you complete the dental assistant’s associate program, you as a graduate should have a wide range of skills to be able to serve the healthcare industry and your patients as well as polish your career. The skills you will require a dental assistant include but are not limited to:
• Dental Administration
You should be able to handle administration well as your job will require you to routinely carry out tasks with office managers besides working with the dentist. You will be asked to maintain and file with complete accuracy. You should be able to recognize the common dental jargon and be familiar with the dental practice management software.
• Recording Medical Histories
Another important job you will have is to be able to record the medical histories of patients so the dentists can have an access of the full account of any type of former surgeries the patient experienced, allergies or preexisting medical conditions or current prescriptions. Your attention to detail will come in handy and play as a pivotal set of your skills while you record the information while it is being told and while you are transferring that information to the medical records.
• Taking X-Rays
In the field of dentistry, dental X-Rays are more than common in the day-to-day lives of dental healthcare professionals. As a dental assistant, it is your responsibility to know about the technology of X-Rays. This has a come a long way and you need to stay informed and updated in order to be a good dental assistant. You should have good authority on radiographic techniques, ensuring you provide the dentists with clear images in order to help them make crucial decisions about the patient’s care.
• Dental Chairside Manner
Everyone knows how crucial the chair is when they visit the dentist. As a dental healthcare professional, your whole or at least most of your professional world revolves around it. Therefore, like the dentists you are expected to have excellent chairside manners. You should know how you can provide compassion and care to the patient. As you know the proximity of this type of care, as a dental assistant graduate, learn to make your patients feel at ease while they are undergoing the sometimes painful and uncomfortable procedures, treatment and services.
• Using Dental Materials
From molds for dental fixtures to helping the orthodontic to help fill cavities, you must have knowledge of the various instruments that are being used. Whether you are a general dental assistant or a specialized one, the wide range of materials used to perform the treatments should be known by you and you should have their knowledge at the tip of your fingers. As a graduate from an associate program, you should be able to recognize the materials that need to be used for the specific types of procedures and care. Therefore, you must understand how to use those instruments.