Dental Assistant Career Education
A dental assistant is a person who works with a dentist to help the dentist with their practice. They help manage the office, assist with client intake and perform patient care. A dental assistant works under the supervision of a dentist. They might also work with dental hygienists and with office managers and staff.
There are many dental assistant jobs in the United States. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in this field. It's a growing and in-demand career. Many assistants work full time but there are part time positions as well. A dental assistant can expect to earn wages that are significantly above the minimum wage.
Dental assistants work in an office setting. They typically enjoy regular business hours but might work emergency or extended shifts in some cases. They might sit or stand for periods of time while working.
A dental assistant should enjoy working with people. They should like science and health care. It's important to enjoy office work and paperwork. An assistant might even accept and review insurance information, so it helps to have strong reading skills.
It's not uncommon to have patients who are nervous about dental care. Often it falls to the dental assistant to make the patient comfortable. It helps to have patience and good listening skills. An assistant needs to be able to be flexible, because different patients have different needs. Sometimes an assistant needs to make decisions quickly when problems arise.
A typical day for a dental assistant depends on the duties that the dentist assigns to the assistant. They might clean and prepare equipment for use. They might assist a dentist with treatment and procedures. An assistant might clean the treatment area in between patients.
In addition to medical services, dental assistants also perform a range of office services. They may greet patients when they arrive at the office. They might answer the phone and accept phone calls. They might show the patient to the treatment area and even collect medical history information before treatment begins.
Opportunities for Advancement
Dental assistants have opportunities for advancement. Some assistants return to school to study dental hygiene. There are opportunities to move into sales of dental products and equipment. Others move into teaching dental assisting. Dental assistants can also become employable as general office managers.
Important Dental Certifications
Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)
In order to become certified, dental assistants must pass an examination that evaluates their knowledge. Most dental assistants who choose to become nationally certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification is an entry-level certification that is for dental assistants who do not yet qualify for DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification. This certificate covers the following areas: Radiation Health and Safety, Infection Control, Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology.
How Much Does a Trained Dental Assistant Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a trained dental assistant mean salary was $18.22 per hour or $37,890 per year. As with any occupation, a dental assistant salary is dependent on the job, employer location, and level of experience. Dental assistant salary is usually implemented in the form of hourly wages, which will increase based on skill level, knowledge, and experience.