Dental assistants operate under the direction of dentists and perform a variety of tasks that help dentists conduct procedures and ensure the smooth functioning of the office. Dental assistants can assist dentists during procedures by preparing the work area, handing the necessary tools to dentists, and suctioning the mouths of patients.
The processes that can be performed on patients by dental assistants can vary by state. For example, some states allow only registered or certified dental assistants to take x-rays or do coronal polishing. However, in other states, official certification may not be necessary.
Dental assistants greatly enhance the dentist’s efficiency in delivering quality oral health care and are valuable dental care team members. If you have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands, and want a reliable career, dental care is for you.
Education and Training to Become a Dental Assistant
The training needed to become a dental assistant can be completed through a community or technical college’s dental assistant program. Typically, diploma and certificate programs last one year, or two to three semesters, and prepare students with the skills and knowledge they need to do a job.
Dental assistant students take classes in subjects such as orofacial anatomy, dental biology, infection control, dental pharmacology, dental radiography, dental supplies, dental office management, and dental health education.
Many states require dental assistants to take an approved program, graduate, and pass an exam. Many programs are provided by community colleges, but vocational or technical schools may also offer them as well. Most programs take about one year to complete and lead to a diploma or a certificate.
Programs that last two years are less common and result in an associate’s degree. In 2017, almost 300 dental assistant training programs were accredited by the Dental Accreditation Commission (CODA), part of the American Dental Association.
Dental assistants with no formal dental assisting education can learn their duties through on-the-job training. In the clinic, a dental assistant, hygienist, or dentist teaches the new dental assistant vocabulary, the names of the equipment, how to perform daily tasks, how to communicate with patients, and other things necessary to help keep the dental office running smoothly.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Dental Assistants
Many states require the licensing, registration, and qualification of dental assistants to get a job. States may allow assistants to meet specific licensing requirements for work in the fields of radiography (x-ray), infection control, or other specialties.
Contact your State Board of Dental Examiners to verify your area’s requirements. States that allow assistants to perform expanded duties, such as coronal polishing, require them to be licensed, registered, or hold Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certifications.
How to Find a Job as a Dental Assistant
To become dental hygienists, dental laboratory technicians, or dentists, dental assistants may undertake additional education. Becoming a laboratory technician or dental hygienist requires a more advanced degree. Further, dentists have to complete a four-year graduate program.
Through their training, dental assistants who complete degree programs also make professional contacts in their field, and these contacts can be excellent sources of job information. You may even receive a job offer from the dentist you worked with if you complete an internship through your course.
You can also locate and apply through the typical job search outlets for dental assistant jobs, such as online job boards and neighborhood newspapers.
Dental assistants work in a reliable and consistent field. As such, there will be jobs available whenever you may want to live. To become a dental assistant, enroll in a program today!
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