According to current estimates, dental assistants earn between $24,000 and $35,171 per year, which translates into an hourly wage of between $11.49 and $16.53. There are other benefits that might accompany a dental assistant’s job. Salary and benefits vary depending on the success of the office that a dental assistant is hired to work in. There are some lucrative dental offices that might pay much better than smaller offices, though the trade off might be less interaction with patients or co-workers due to the busy nature of a successful office.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Dental coverage can be one of the biggest perks of working as a dental assistant. The American Dental Association estimates that about 90% of dental assistants receive some kind of dental coverage as part of their compensation. Due to the high price of dental coverage, this benefit is extremely impressive.
Job Description and Outlook
Dental assistants work closely with patients to ensure that the best dental care possible is given. Some of the job requires that an assistant be personable and make sure that patients are prepared properly for procedures and kept comfortable and relaxed before and during procedures.
The work of a dental assistant is ongoing throughout the day. The responsibilities that they must carry out during the day are extensive and some of the most useful services that can possibly be offered by the office itself. An assistant must make sure that a dentist is supplied with the proper equipment for every procedure, and often they will be needed to make sure that proper hygiene is observed during all procedures. When visiting a dentist’s office, it’s likely that you’ll observe a dentist’s assistant doing many tasks during a procedure: Cleaning office instruments, handing instruments to a dentist, and suctioning a patient’s mouth to keep them comfortable during the procedure. These many responsibilities highlight just how important a dentist’s assistant is to the overall maintenance and performance of a dentist’s office.
Procedures prior to an actual appointment will usually be carried out by an assistant as well. Assistants frequently take impressions of teeth and X-rays, after which they are instructed on how to develop the film by a dentist. This is an enormously important part of dentistry, as the X-ray reveals the exact condition of teeth and allows a dentist to make an accurate diagnosis.
There are some duties that dental assistants must carry out in a dental lab. These include cleaning dental equipment and creating casts of teeth.
The general office area will be familiar to the dental assistant as well. They’re not always required to do so, but in some offices a dental assistant will make appointments, call patients to remind them of appointments, and hand phone questions from clients. For the most part, whatever a dentist needs a dental assistant to do, a dental assistant will do. It’s for this reason that on-the-job training is so important in the first few weeks of work. Every office requires different things from their assistant.
Training and Education Requirements
Dental assistants are able to learn many of the skills simply by hands-on training in a dental setting, it is now very common for assistants to receive additional education. The programs that help train dental assistants give prospective assistants an edge over people without training. They enter the job fully aware of what the job entails and are able to be more knowledgeable about their occupation and the skills they must have in performing well in it.
Common places to find dental assistant programs include community colleges, trade schools, and military schools. A dental assistant program is typically a 2-year program that teaches future assistants about the extent of their duties and the attitude they must have in order to comfort patients before and during procedures. The education is a mixture of hands-on training and book study, usually culminating in an associate’s degree.
All dental assistants that want further education must have a high school diploma before they enter a program. Dental assistants are required by some states to receive certification, usually received through a written test, before they can practice in a given state.
Dental assistants are now able to become certified. Certified dental assistants make more money than non-certified assistants and will receive a job more readily than an assistant without certification. Many state schools require courses that last from 10 to 12 months, as well as a written or practical test to acquire certification. Each state has different procedures for certifying a dental assistant.
Dental assistants are now able to join a number of professional organizations that help to bring them closer to their work and learn more about their work as they continue in their career.
The ADAA, or American Dental Assistant’s Association, allows dentist assistants to join and further their careers by keeping up with new treatments and taking advantage of ADAA resources that help them to promote their careers.
The Dental Assisting National Board helps dental assistants to receive certification in their respective areas, and CODA, or Commission On Dental Accreditation outlines what is requires of education programs that want to receive accreditation.
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