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How to Become a Dental Assistant

One of the most important roles played in the dental health field is that of dental assistants. From the moment that a patient walks through the door of a dentist’s office, a dental assistant is there to help in every step of dental treatment and administrative procedures. Dental assistants are vital in helping patients maintain healthy teeth and gums. They can truly brighten your smile.

For surgeries and cleanings, dental assistants will need to prepare the equipment that the dentist or dental hygienist will use. This includes sterilization and disinfecting. Dental assistants will also maintain patient records after each procedure. Dental assistants work with patients to get them ready for their procedures and consultations with the dentist too. Once the patient is in the chair, the dental assistant may be right there the whole time, handing over instruments and suctioning the patient’s mouth to keep it dry during procedures and operations.

Dental assistants also talk with patients before and after their appointments, discussing further care. There is a heavy administrative side to the duties of a dental assistant as well. He or she will need to manage the office’s appointments, maintain accurate patient records, and handle billing and supply orders.

Though many dental assistants work only part time, nearly half of them are reported to be working full time each week.

A few more important things to consider: A dental assistant is not licensed to do all the same procedures as a dental hygienist. Dental assistants can work for the public and private sectors, in dentists’ offices or in government dental organizations.

In order to become a dental assistant, you will of course need some education and training. Training can take place on the job, or from a trade school or community college. Those who have completed a training program will increase their marketability for future employers. Usually such programs can be completed in a year. These are not mandatory, however. If you do choose to go with a certification program, make sure it is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) acquired through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). You may also elect to get a 2 year Associate’s degree in dental assisting. Either way, your course will cover topics from laboratory procedures to skills needed to assist the dentist in his or her routines treatments. If your state requires a license to work as a dental assistant, you will also need to pass an exam.

Aside from the formal dental assistant training, you should also be sure that you will enjoy the work environment, and interacting with many people on a daily basis.

The salary of a dental assistant can be anywhere from$22,000 at the low end to $46,000 at the high end. The average salary is about $33,000.

The dental assistant job outlook is very promising. By 2018, employment could grow as much as 36%. Dental assistants will always be in demand, as will the opportunity to advance in the dental field from this entry point. Retiring or advancing dental assistants will need to be replaced as well, which will open up new jobs in the field. If you become a dental assistant, you will enjoy a secure position with many rewards.

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