Dental Assistant: Invaluable Element of the Team

dental assistant at work

A qualified dental assistant is an essential element of the dental team. The duties of the average assistant include sterilizing and organizing the instruments needed for patients treatment, taking X-rays and teeth impressions, handling patient files and helping people to feel easy and comfortable in the dentist chair to name a few. In this article we are going to dwell upon the basic facts about dentist assistant profession: how to become one, what are the career choices, salary options and other details. We will also help you to visualize a typical day from the assistant’s life.

Becoming a Dental Assistant

The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that the job demand for dental assistants should grow (up to 29% by 2016), thus if you are unsure about your dental career choice, the high time has become! In simple terms, the whole process will look like this: program selection – graduation – licensure – employment. Now let’s look closer at each stage:

  • It is obvious that to get a job of dental assistant you need to get a proper education first. To be prepared for tertiary education, take courses in biology, chemistry and health when in high school. These will give you the basic knowledge and clues on your future occupation. Afterwards, find the best dental assistant courses for you. It must be one of the 260 accredited programs registered nationwide.
  • Contact several schools in your region (or in the desired area). Take a walk through the campuses, talk to the facility workers and current students to get the total image of the educational establishment. You can also look for part time job options there. Once the program is chosen, fill in the required applications and start your education.
  • Complete the program successfully (it takes from 6 to 12 months on average) and graduate with good marks. Afterward, you may want to take the certification exam offered by the DANB (Dental Assisting National Board). It is not obligatory, yet it’s required in thirty states. Even if you are going to work in a state which doesn’t require one, a certification increases your chances to get a job and opens new options.
  • Once you have graduated and passed the exam, look for a job. There is an official American Dental Association career page which deals with employment of dental assistants among other services. You can look for free dental assistant positions in the newspapers, magazines, internet forums and ads. You may also contact local practices nearby to get information about unadvertised positions.
  • Make up a resume and upload it to the job offering websites. In order to get a job offer write a CV that will stand out among others. Don’t let it be boring and dull. Make sure it includes the actual contact information. There are plenty of resume samples which can be found online – take your time and make up one that will work for you. Don’t forget to update it regularly.
  • Negotiate your salary, duties and other essential details of your job before signing any contracts.

Career Choices

dental care for children

Depending on the structure of the dental office the assistant can work with a single dentist or can help several doctors in their group practice. Take into account that some clinics require paperwork duties, while others don’t. Thus, be attentive and inquiring when employing.

Being a medical assistant you can obtain more specialized training in dental sphere, like dentofacial orthopedics and orthodontics, oral surgery, periodontics, pediatric dentistry and other domains. This will enlarge the scope of your service thus increasing your salary and opening perspectives for further training.

Besides private solo and group practices you can find a place in the public schools and clinics where you will instruct and supervise student assistants, help bedridden patients and lead preventative works.

Job of Dental Assistant

To understand the scope of the assistant duties let’s list the most common things he/she has to do during a working day:

  • taking care of patients: making sure they are comfortable in the dentist chair;
  • handling patient files;
  • assisting with medical instruments, maintaining patient’s mouth clean and dry during the exam or procedures (with the help of special suctions and other devices);
  • sterilizing the equipment;
  • instructing patients on aftercare and general oral care;
  • making teeth impressions and X-rays (as a rule, under the dentist supervision);
  • sometimes applying anesthetics, removing sutures and excess cement used for filling and other kinds of post-work.

Those assistants who work in the laboratories, in addition to the aforementioned duties, make casts of the teeth and mouth (using the teeth impressions), maintain (polish and clean) mobile equipment and produce temporary crowns.

In some clinics dental assistants are also responsible for office work, hence they:

  • schedule appointments;
  • meet patients;
  • keep patient file records;
  • deal with payments;
  • order equipment and materials.

Decent Income

nice and perfect smile

Speaking about salary, the job of dental assistant offers a decent income. The statistics show that a half of the American dental assistants get between $29,785 and $36,564 per year. Of course, the salary depends on the education, qualification level, experience and skills of a person. It is calculated that the top 10% of the dental assistants in the USA earn over $39,400 per year. Local factors are also defining in terms of salary: it can be lower in rural areas and much higher in urban conglomerations (because of the cost of living). Another factor is a particular field the assistant is involved into. It is an undeniable fact that those working for cosmetic dentists tend to earn more.

As we see, dental assistants are invaluable persons in the dental industry. They perform a wide scope of works, starting from paperwork and tracking treatment records finishing with complicated procedures and supplies manufacture requiring surgical manual dexterity. These are the people who are responsible for patient comfort in the dental chair. Employment opportunities for dental assistants are rather perspective and wide: they can work either for a solo dentist or a group practice, for a private office or public clinic. They can also work as students supervisors.