Do Dental Assistants Need Dental Continuing Education?
The twenty-first century is an era of rapid development in various fields, and the field of dentistry is no exception. With new techniques, alternative procedures and complex machines surfacing now and then, it is vital for you, as a dental assistant, to be up to date with a majority of these. Even if you’ve earned your diploma or completed a degree program at a reputed university, having an in-depth knowledge of the status quo is highly beneficial for your career. This is where dental continuing education (CE) courses come in. These are short courses offered by a few organizations affiliated to or certified by a central dental authority. But before coming to that, let’s understand the road to becoming a dental assistant.
Being a dental assistant doesn’t necessarily require you to obtain formal education through a university or a dental school. Anyone can become a dental assistant by attending community schools, vocational courses, or online courses that provide trusted certification for the same. These courses are usually 1-year long and include technical training in the classroom and practical aspects like a laboratory and clinical instruction.
Some states require you to obtain licensure from the competent authority while others don’t require it. If you aim at becoming a nationally certified assistant, you need to pass the CDA (Certified Dental Assistant) exam. As a part of your licensure, you are required to complete a certain amount of CE credits every year to retain your license. The number of hours may vary from 6 to 10 hours every year, depending on the state you choose. These courses can be in various branches such as infection control, dependent adult abuse, CPR, etc.
Thus, either due to state regulations or due to your interests, dental CE can help you leverage your existing skills to cope up with the ever-evolving industry. You can either opt for on-site classroom courses or dental CE online courses offered by various good sites. Here are a few benefits of attending these courses.
Team building opportunities
If you work long hours at a DSO or assist doctors at a dental clinic as a part of a team and your motivation drains by the end of the week, these courses can serve as excellent team building opportunities. Something as simple as a live seminar can help you in refreshing your mood after a tiring week and make you feel more motivated about your career. Thus, when you come back after the weekend, this can lead to better service to patients, which will attract more people to go to your clinic. Not only that, you may feel a strong sense of unity among your team members, which will eventually enhance your clinic’s reputation in the long run.
This reason is primarily for those assistants who have chosen to attend a live dental CE course. Online courses surely cannot provide hands-on training to any individual. In a live dental CE course, you can hone your existing skill set or learn a new skill. You can earn certification in various areas like IV sedation, anesthetic procedures, nitrous oxide dentistry, laser certification, etc. With the ability to perform these operations and receive regular feedback from your instructor, live courses are a great way to take maximum advantage of dental continuing education. Moreover, a high number of certifications can open new career paths for you.
Another great benefit of attending live dental CE courses is the opportunity to meet people from different walks of life who are pursuing the same career as you. Networking with anyone ranging from an assistant at another clinic to an industry expert has tremendous benefits. Initiating a conversation with someone post the class may lead to a new opportunity for you. In this process, you also hone your social and communication skills, which are a crucial component of any social setting.
Interactiveness, which leads to greater insight
In a live seminar or even in a regular classroom, an interactive environment can help you in ways you didn’t even know about. You may encounter a blank when the instructor asks a particular question, or you may solve it partially. A classmate may have an alternative approach to the same problem, which will help you gain insight into the topic at hand. Sharing opinions and having friendly discussions with your classmates during the course can enrich your overall learning experience.
In the present day, almost every dental assistant has undergone a year-long training at a dental assistant school and gets employed at a DSO or a clinic. However, the wage earned by an ordinary assistant is much lesser than one who has specialized in a particular field of dentistry. While your experience in the industry increases the compensation you receive, a specialization can bump up the figure significantly. According to the US BLS (Bureau of Labour Statistics), the median annual salary for dental assistants was $38,660 with the highest 10 percent earning over $54,800 and the lowest 10 percent earning less than $26,940. Dental CE courses are a way of specializing in specific procedures and techniques. The higher the number of certifications you have, the higher the compensation and higher respect for you in the dental society.
While all these benefits may sound exciting, it is crucial to select the right course to avoid wastage of resources like your time and money. When you’re choosing the course you want to attend, there are a few points you should cross-check before registration. First, you should check if the course meets the required state CE requirements. Secondly, you should verify if the course fulfills the recertification requirements for the authority which granted your license. Thirdly, the learning objectives of the course should be clear from the very start to avoid the risk of being misinformed during the teaching period. Last but not least, you should keep your budget in mind as some courses can be quite expensive.
Now that you have a fair idea, you can decide which dental CE courses you want to enroll for. Being a dental assistant is extremely enjoyable if you’re current with the procedures and technology at your disposal, and continuing education is a great way to do so.