dental care

Dental Assistant
What You Need to Know

A dental assistant plays a key role in a dental clinic. The work of a dentist assistant is very important because a dentist will find it difficult to work without the help of an assistant. Assistant tasks include various duties in the maintenance of the dental office, in the caring of patients, and in the maintenance of the dental laboratory.

Whatever form of assistance is needed by the dentist, the assistants have to provide it. He or she must work closely with the dentist in whatever task or procedure the dentist has to perform for a patient.

Two years ago, there were about 295,300 dentist assistants in employment. Majority of them work in private dental clinics, while some work in federally owned dental locations.

A dentist assistant is different from a dental hygienist. Dental assistants cannot perform procedures, while dental hygienists can perform basic preventive and maintenance procedures. To fully understand the role of a dental assistant, it is important for you to know exactly what an assistant’s responsibilities are.

Below are all the facts you need to know about the dentist assistant job : what you need to become one, schools, salaries, how to work out your resume and job forecast.

What They Do and How to Become One

What you should know if you want to be a dental assistant:

  • Range of responsibilities
  • Studying to be a dental assistant
  • Obtaining certification and license

1. Range of responsibilities

Dental AssistantThe responsibilities of a dental assistant are quite a lot because the assistant job is very flexible and varied. It is the dentist assistant’s responsibility to ensure that cleanliness and order is maintained in the dental clinic. This involves sterilizing, organizing, storing, and disinfecting all instruments and equipments used in the clinic.

Aside from that, assistants have to stand by the dentist during procedures, handing equipments and instruments throughout the duration of the procedures. They are also allowed to operate certain equipment such as suction hoses to help improve and ensure the comfort of patients.

Dentist assistants are also responsible for keeping and updating all dental records. They are also tasked to oversee post-operative or general oral care of patients. Although they are not allowed to perform x-rays, they can process x-rays under the direction of a licensed dentist. They are also allowed to perform follow-ups to procedures. For example, they can apply supplemental topical medications to gums or preventive agents on teeth. They can also remove sutures or remaining materials that get left behind following a particular procedure.

Due to all these responsibilities, it is safe to say that dentists will be unable to efficiently perform dental procedures and tasks without the help of an assistant.

2. Studying

There is generally no formal requirement that you have to be academically and professionally trained to become a dental assistant. A lot of dentist assistants learn the job through hands on training.

Nowadays, however, more and more people are seeking formal training for dentist assistant posts because such training programs are currently being offered in community colleges. These programs are short; they usually last for only a year and already increase chances of obtaining immediate employment as an assistant. Trainings are often followed by on the job programs for practical training.

3. Obtaining certification and license

You can become a dental assistant by just going through a training program or seeking academic training, but there are limits as to the tasks and procedures you can dabble in. There are certain certifications and special licenses that are given to dentist assistants who want to be able to achieve higher standards in their line of work.

Some certifications and licenses allow assistants to be able to perform special procedures in the clinic. To obtain licensure, an aspirant must complete a written or a practical exam, or both.

In some cases, however, some dentists already train and allow their assistants to perform advanced procedures. Sometimes, the full extent of responsibilities of an assistant will depend only on the discretion of the dentist he or she is assisting.

Dental assisting is a busy but highly interesting job. It is one of the few professions there are in the dental field, but it enjoys the greatest array of job prospects considering that dental assistants can work in any type of dental clinic. They can find jobs in offices of dentists, hospitals, and schools.

How Dental Assisting Schools Do the Training

Dental assisting schools are specialized educational institutions that aim to provide training and education for those who are interested in becoming dental assistants. Dental assistant programs have but a single objective, to mold future dental assistants so they will become fit to work in a dental clinic.
  • Establishing Tasks and Responsibilities
  • Well-known Dental Assisting Schools
  • Post-Graduate Dental Assisting Training

1. Establishing Tasks and Responsibilities

dental assisting schoolsOne of the main objectives of dental assisting schools is to establish or make it clear to dental assistants what their role in the dental clinic is and what they are to do and not to do. The general job description of dental assistants clearly state the boundaries and extent of a dental assistant’s job, but in the real clinical setting there may be deviations from this. This is what formal education and training also aims to do: to equip dental assistants in any form of task or responsibility that they will face on the job.

This may involve sterilizing, cleaning, and organizing dental care materials, sterilizing the dental environment, preparing equipments needed for dental procedures, prepping patients prior to procedures, assisting both the patient and the dentist, providing the right tools and materials to the dentist in a procedure, checking supplies of tools and materials needed in the clinic, ordering supplies when necessary, scheduling patients, taking x-rays, and most of all, interacting with patients and giving them primary information on proper oral care.

As you can see, the roles of the dental assistant are pretty diverse. Some are administrative, some are organizational, while some are practical tasks. At first, aspiring dental assistants may find this intimidating. But with proper training from dental assisting schools, most dental assistants confidently find that the diversity of tasks assigned to them keeps the work interesting and motivating.

2. Well-Known Dental Assisting Schools

You can receive such training and education from the large number of dental assisting schools in the country. For one, Everest College in California and Washington offers a competitive dental assisting program. So do the Colorado School of Dental Assisting, the Western Career College in Sacramento (which offers dental assisting and dental hygiene courses), the ATI Health Education Center in Florida, Apollo College in Idaho, Herzing College in Minnesota, Medical Careers Institute in Virginia, and so on. The University of Phoenix also offers dental assisting programs in some of its locations.

3. Post-Graduate Training

You can also use dental assisting as a secondary job even if you have another career in full swing. There are plenty of post-graduate dental assisting programs that can give you dental assistant training and prepare you for the job.

So what can you except to earn ?

What You can Expect to Earn - Factors that Affect Salary

Dental assistant salary ranges differ based on several factors. Different states and cities have different salary ranges because the dental industry in each state and city has a unique climate. It can, however, be said that dental assistants do make quite a good sum of money, and this goes for all salary ranges in general.

After all, dental assisting does not come with a lot of requirements before you can do it. You don’t need a four-year course or any degree for that matter. A simple training program would be enough; sometimes, even that is not necessary because some dentists train their assistants on the job.

These are what make a dental assistant's salary

  • State and city standard rates
  • Salary stats
  • Experience and background

1. State and city standard rates

Dental Assistant SalaryThe standard dental assistant salary rates normally differ from one state to another. States often base differences in the said rates based on a general benchmarked system. States often set limits on how much the services of a dental assistant is worth. This determines the overall standard rate, usually measured on a per hour basis, which will apply to the entire state.

Currently, common state standard rates are at $12 per hour for those who are newly graduated from college and up to more than $20 per hour for those who have additional experience.

There is also another reason why dental assistant salary also differs from one state to the next. Different states bear unique characteristics. For example, different states means different levels of living costs, different demands levels, and so on.

Also, in some cases, local city governments also have an influence on the overall salary received by a dental assistant.

2. Salary stats

Reports have also shown that half of all dental assistants earn anywhere around $30,000 and $36,000. At best, a dental assistant can make up to $39,000 per year. The highest possible salary for a dental assistant is around $46,150, and the lowest is found to be $22,000. This leads to an average rate of around $32,000.

3. Experience and background

Most dental assistants do not obtain formal training and simple learn on their feet. But schools have responded to the need, which led to the creation of special short term courses designed to train and equip prospective dental assistants with the skills and knowledge they can use when they become dental assistants.

The overall experience and background you obtain for the job affects the overall rate you can charge for your services. Even without obtaining training and without the need for a costly four-year course, you can get paid a pretty sum as dental assistant salary. So what more if you obtain experience and formal education and training as a dental assistant? This means your value as a dental clinic worker increases, and your personal rates will also reach the maximum possible level.

Actual Assistant Salary Rates in the US

State-mandated dental assistant salary include $12.96 in California, $14.92 in New York, $13 in Pennsylvania, $15 in Illinois, $13.27 in Ohio, $14.50 in Virginia, and $14.66 in Ohio.

Sometimes, cities are the ones that mandate their own prices due to certain unique factors. This is true for the biggest cities in the US where the demographics of the target market are extremely different from those found in the rest of the state. For example, Las Vegas rates dental assistants at a salary of $15.49, Chicago at $14.49, New York at $17, and Houston at $13. It is noticeable that the highly populous New York also offers the best hourly city-mandated dental assistant salary rates.

Now, you may also want to note that if you are working in the areas of dental implants in privatly owner clinics where the owners take on clients with implant dental insurance , then this rate can be substantially higher.

If you are considering the career path of a dental assistant, you will see that the dental assistant salary is also quite promising, with an overall average of around $30,000 and with the opportunity to make this grow all the way up to $40,000. This is definitely an exciting sum especially with the easy and hassle-free way it takes for one to become a dental assistant.

Tips on How to Build Up Your Assistant Resume

If you have finished your training, here are some things you should know when building up your dental assistant resume

  • Summarize qualifications for the specific job
  • Highlight and specify work experiences in the dental field
  • State educational background and qualifying trainings
  • Enumerate personal certifications and awards

1. Summarize qualifications for the specific job

dental assistant resumeBefore anything else, give your potential employer a clear, easy to read summarized list of your qualifications for the dental assistant job. List down all skills that make you a great dental assistant. Start with skills that are most relevant to the dental assistant position, such as knowledge in dental symptoms, hand dexterity, ability to take in lots of information and ideas, hand and mind coordination, and so on. Towards the end, include generally beneficial skills such as good communication skills, professionalism, and so on.

2. Highlight work experiences in the dental field

One of the most significant qualification requirements in becoming a dental assistant is the work experience. Dental assistants who already have previous experience in working in the dental field get the upperhand during the job search process.

When listing work experiences, start with the most recent then go back. List all work experiences, not just those that are related to the dental field. However, give emphasis to work related to the dental field. How do you do this?

Do not just list down the work experience. Under the actual experience, specify in bullet points the specific tasks you performed under that specific work experience. For example, list down all the instruments you are able to operate if you were allowed to do so, list down all dental materials you are knowledgeable and skilled in preparing, and mention all other dental operations you have become familiar with.

3. State educational background and qualifying trainings

Then move on to your general educational background. If you have any qualifying trainings pointed specifically towards becoming a dental assistant such as a dental assisting training program, put these first on the list.

4. Enumerate personal certifications and awards

Next, move on to enumerating personal certifications and awards you may have received. Don’t stick to just those that are related to the job. Any other personal certifications can give others an idea of your character, so they can be helpful in giving you an edge.

Is the Job Market Promising?

The dental assistant position has been hailed as one of the fastest growing occupations since 2008. More and more people seem to be needing dental care, and the tasks and responsibilities of dentists are becoming more taxing and demanding. Due to this, the job prospects of dental assistants receive a boost.

Dental assistants also enjoy a flexible schedule and a clean and well-lit work environment, especially if they are working in environments where the doctors take on low cost dental insurance plans for individuals. Assistant jobs can also be used as a secondary income-earner. In fact, a large percentage of assistants are only in the job part-time. All in all, prospects are looking good for dental assistants.

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