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Dental Assistants

Dental assistants aid the dentists in any manner of areas and tasks. They are trained to assist the dentist during procedures or are tasked with explaining post-operative procedures to the patient.

What to Expect

Dental assistants are responsible for a number of responsibilities. Their most common and basic task is to aid the dentist in anything requested of them. Responsibilities include the most basic of paperwork and administrative duties to the cleaning of tools.

Other duties dental assistants are tasked with are;

  • Basic office duties such as answering phones.
  • Checking in patients
  • Filing medical records
  • Sterilizing tools and work areas
  • Prepare the tools and instruments needed for each patient’s visit
  • Comfort the patient before and after procedures
  • Provide basic information
  • Explain proper oral hygiene habits
  • Hand tools to the dentist

Dental assistants may also perform certain laboratory procedures. Assistants may be tasked with taking impressions of a patient’s mouth. They may also be responsible for creating molds from those impressions.

For the most part, dental assistants work closely with dentists. While they are not to be confused with dental hygienists the importance of dental assistants should not be over looked.

Education, Training, and Certification

Most dental assistants receive on the job training. There are no real education requirements to enter into an entry level position. There are training programs most lasting no more than a year. During such programs the student will learn the basic duties and functions of a dental assistant. These programs are offered by vocational schools and institutions though few if any of these programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

High school students who show an interest in pursuing this career path would do well to take business courses, biology courses, and chemistry courses. There are programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation that does offer a more detailed and involved training curriculum. During these programs basic laboratory and office duties will be explored. There are also junior colleges and even community colleges that offer course work centering round becoming a dental assistant.

On the job training, however, continues to be the most popular way of training. During training a new dental assistant will learn the trade by hands on experience and observation. This on the job training will even be required for those that are graduating from any of the vocational and even college courses. Dentists often differ in methodology and style and it important for the dental assistant to understand this in order to continue the smooth operation of the office and practice.

With continued education and experience it is possible to advance to more specialized positions. Many dental assistants will go back to school in order to receive the education and training needed to become a dental hygienist.

Certification exists to allow dental assistants to perform a few clinical duties such as radiological procedures. Other than that, dentist looks for people that are reliable, pleasant, and quick to learn when hiring dental assistants.

Employment Options

Dental assistants will continue to be in demand. They offer invaluable support within the dentist office. The more skilled, trained, and certified the dental assistant the greater chances are at finding and maintain a high paying position in an office.

Employment Outlook

The market for dental assistants is expected to grow in the coming decades. This is due to the increased demand for a healthy smile. Population growth and the ability to keep natural teeth for longer are also fueling the need for trained dental assistants.

New dental assistants will also be required as the older assistants are moving up in the office to become office managers or as they graduate from college to become a dentist.

Projected Salary

Salary and wages for dental assistant depend on their level of experience and the office in which they work.

The editors of McGraw-Hill and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor  Statistics, The Big Book of Jobs, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-2013  ©2009 by the McGraw-Hill Companies, Material "Adapted"

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