The rising demand for a perfect set of pearly whites and the rapid advancements in dental technology has made it one of the most sought after career options. And among all the dental jobs, a dental assistant is one of the least popular ones.
Most people assume the dental assistant with their white scruff to be a dentist or a hygienist at best. But a dental assistant is often the key behind the smooth and seamless functioning of a dentists office.
Their roles are diverse and include everything from scheduling appointments to assisting dentists in various complex dental procedures.
Did that pique your interest?
Well, you are in luck for we are going to discuss everything about dental assistant jobs today including the qualification you need, licensure according to different states, growth in the career and what it takes to become one.
So sit back and enjoy the read.
What best describes a dental assistant?
As the name suggests, a dental assistant provides valuable support to both dentists as well as other administrative staff in a plethora of tasks. For this reason, one needs to have excellent communication skills, a keen eye for detail and the willingness to help others. Maintaining patient records, assisting in procedures like polishing teeth, helping patients understand the best practices for oral care after a dental procedure, helping them feel comfortable before a dental surgery, using sealants, processing x-rays, using suction equipment, sterilizing dental equipment, taking dental impressions for creating casts and helping patients clean their mouth after a restoration procedure are some of the typical tasks that dental assistants perform.
On the administrative front, a dental assistant will perform varying tasks like maintaining patient records, medical history and using dental management software.
What are the qualifications needed to become a dental assistant?
One of the first steps to ensure that you can consider high paying dental assistant jobs in future is to be aware of the qualifications that you need to become a skilled dental assistant.
While formal training is not a prerequisite, more and more students are opting to complete a dental assistant program from an accredited university because it helps them get acquainted with dental terms and enables them to work in a clinical setting as part of their externship.
The course can either be a diploma, a certificate course or an associate degree. Some of the subjects that are involved in the course include Oral anatomy, dental radiography, CPR, dental pharmacology, office administration, first aid and dental materials.
A lot of dentists consider the externship to be a more important part of a dental assistant’s skill as compared to a course or a diploma. That’s because the externship gives the student a first hand experience at assisting a dentist.
Some dental assistants also choose a specialty focus like periodontics, dentofacial orthodontics or pediatric dentistry.
Certification and licensing
Most states do not require certification or licensing for dental assistant jobs. However, in the states that do, dental assistants are required to pass the Certified Dental Assistant exam. Dental assistants who have completed a diploma or any other educational course are more likely to clear the exam with ease because most of the questions asked in the exam are included in the curriculum.
If the student has chosen a specialized focus, then other certifications may also be available. That includes dental assistants in orthodontistry and preventive functioning.
Online dental schools
If you prefer to complete the course online, then you’d be glad to know that there are many community colleges and technical colleges who offer courses for dental assistants online. This also allows you the convenience of working with a dentist while pursuing the course simultaneously.
But as convenient as it sounds, you must always do your due diligence before signing up with any online dental school.
It has to be accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). There are almost 270 accredited programs for you to choose from at the moment. If you have found an online dental school, you must always cross verify the accreditation status on the ADA website.
Some online dental schools offer a program that can be completed in a shorter span of time that’s typically four to eight months. If you are looking to sign up for such programs, do your research to ensure that these programs will help you gain the skills, knowledge and experience that you need to succeed in the career.
Dental assistant jobs as a career
It is estimated that the demand for skilled and passionate individuals looking to work in dental assistant jobs is going to skyrocket in the next 6-7 years. Also, as long as you like working in a clinical setting and are looking for a challenging and rewarding career, then the job is one of the least stressful ones with fixed work hours and a decent median salary.
It has excellent growth prospects, job flexibility and job satisfaction. The median salary for a dental assistant in 2015 was approximately $36000. This may however vary depending on the area in which the dental practice is in.
Many dental assistants work for a few years with a dentist and then return to college to complete advanced degrees which will significantly improve their chances of advancing in the career and also pave the way for better earnings.
How to better your chances of landing high paying dental assistant jobs
Apart from gaining the necessary skills, qualification and licensure, you’d also want to stay updated on the various dental software that are commonly used by dentists. Some of these are Softdent, Practicework and Dentrix.
Other than this, you’d also want to be aware of imaging software used for dental radiography. Some of these are Tigerview and Dexis.
It’s not mandatory for you to know the software like the back of your hand. But being aware of how it works will certainly help you gain a leg up when you apply for dental jobs.
With very few qualification and skill requirements, you can choose one of America’s fastest growing careers.