Understand the Field of Dental Assistant Training
Dental assistance is believed to be one of the fastest-growing career options in the US, with the expected average annual growth being about 25 percent, far greater than the overall average growth that represents most other jobs out there. There are also many other benefits of being a dental assistant, such as better job stability, a relatively low barrier to entry into the workforce as well as being far more resistant to economic uncertainties in terms of job prospects.
So without further ado, let us help you learn more about the field of the dental assistant and how you can become a part of this growing industry.
Dental Assistant Training – An Introduction
First things first, dental assistants enjoy a fairly important place in the overall dental workforce. Whether be it directly being involved in the dental procedures or taking care of the administrative tasks, there is a wide range of jobs offered to dental assistants.
Now, as far as the entry to the dental workforce is concerned, there may or may not be any kind of formal requirements depending on the state you live and work in. Similarly, the nature of the job a dental assistant does – depending on your state – tends to vary a bit as well.
If you’re wondering how long does it take to be a dental assistant, then let us tell you that it can take anywhere from nine months to two years, depending on whether you’re just trying to get certified or want to get a diploma or degree program. Then there’s probably also an option to go for a dental assistant online course, though the prospects such a course would offer may depend on the institution offering it.
Once you have gained the required level of education and also passed any other certifications that may be required depending on your specific career and job preferences, you may likely be qualified to work on a huge variety of dental tasks.
If you have opted for a job of an administrative nature, you may find yourself scheduling appointments, maintaining patient records and keeping a track of dental supplies.
If you, however, end up landing a job of a clinical nature, you will likely be directly involved in the dental procedures. You may be tasked with handing tools to the dentist performing the treatments, operating devices used during a dental procedure, sterilizing instruments and more.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual wage of a dental assistant was about $36,000, with the one at the top end of the salary range making close to $50,000 a year. Perhaps specializing in something may fetch you more than if you’re just trying to be someone who performs a wide range of general tasks. In other words, a dental hygienist’s wage may be considerably higher than someone who is working as a dental assistant on a general level.
Another important thing to keep in mind here is that the salary may vary significantly from one state to another. However, the states offering the best in terms of salary also demand the most in terms of skills and educational requirements and other qualifications.
With that said, here are the 5 top states based on the salary they offer to dental assistants.
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
Steps to Becoming a Dental Assistant
Becoming a dental assistant can be both professionally and financially rewarding, but there are a number of requirements to be met. We will walk you through most of the important ones you need to be aware of.
Figuring out your ideal educational plan
A dental assistant program typically runs from one to two years, depending on whether you’re opting for a certificate, diploma or associate degree. Usually, you can enroll into one either through a community college or a technical school.
Most programs would also include hands-on clinical training beside the classroom sessions. The coursework typically includes oral anatomy, dental radiography, dental pharmacology and more.
It may later vary if you trying to get into something specific. For example, orthodontic assistant training may involve a different coursework and hence require a different approach than other types of specialized dental assistant programs. On the other hand, there are also several dental assistant classes online that you can consider if you don’t have the time or resources to get into a community college or technical school.
They may not be considered as something equivalent to a degree in dental assistance from a college or other educational institution, but they are likely to put you in a better position than not having any kind of degree or qualification specific to the dental field.
Finally, there are also some states that don’t require you to have any educational qualifications to work as a dental assistant, but the students that do have something to show on this front apparently have a significant advantage over those that don’t when it comes to landing their first job.
Going for an externship
The externship can apparently be an excellent way to gain some much-valued hands-on experience in the dental field without the need to have an educational degree. It’s believed to help students stand out from the others that lack any kind of real-world experience in the field.
It may also be a great opportunity to make a career in a specific dental field as it allows you to get the training in specialized areas of dentistry such as orthodontic or pediatric care.
Narrowing down on an option
As discussed above, the world of dental care has many specific areas that you can consider as a career option. While there are a lot of options to choose from in the field of oral care, an experienced and educated dental assistant would also get to choose from other more specialized options like maxillofacial surgery, periodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, pediatric dentistry and more.
Meeting the requirements
This step would firstly involve getting in touch with your state’s dental department (often just by visiting their website) and asking them about the requirements to work as a dental assistant. In states where being certified is a requirement, you would likely have to pass the DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination that’s based on general chairside, infection control and radiation health and safety.
There’s More to It!
If you think this is all you need to know about dental assistant training, you’re probably mistaken. There’s a lot more to it, and what we have discussed in this article is just a (significant) part of it.
If you’re seriously considering dental assistance as a career option, you would certainly want to check out our other post on dental assistant training right here.