Dental assistants are qualified individuals who contribute significantly to the dental team. Dental assistants perform a variety of tasks, from patient care to office and laboratory duties. If you are interested in a career as a dental assistant, you should have:
Dental assistants perform a wide range of tasks, which may include:
The exact responsibilities of a specific dental assistant job will depend on the assistant’s background and credentials as well as state laws and the dentist for whom the assistant works.
The current job market for dental assistants is stable, and future projections indicate a continued high demand for assisting services. In addition to demand, there are other benefits to a career as a dental assistant, including:
Dental assistants can also advance to other careers, such as office manager, research associate, dental sales representative, educator, dental laboratory technologist, dental hygienist and dentist.
Most certified and registered or licensed dental assistants with an x-ray license make a minimum hourly wage of $18.00 to start. Salaries vary according to where you live and other factors including experience. Some employers offer uniform allowances, reimbursement for continuing education and professional dues, health benefits and pension plans.
Almost half of all dental assistants have a 35- to 40-hour work week, which may include work on Saturdays or evenings. Dental assistants work in a well-lighted, clean environment.
Dental assistants may work in a number of settings, including:
Their work area usually is near the dental chair so that they can arrange instruments, materials and medication and hand them to the dentist when needed. Dental workers may be at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens and infectious diseases so they wear gloves, masks, eyewear and protective clothing to protect themselves and their patients. Following safety procedures also minimizes the risks associated with the use of radiographic equipment.
About Being a Dental Assistant
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Note: The American Dental Education Association reviewed this profile.
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If you want to become a dental assistant, you will need to enroll in a post-high school program. You can find those programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, universities or dental schools. Graduates of these programs usually receive certificates. Although the majority of academic dental assisting programs take nine to 11 months to complete, some schools offer accelerated training, part-time education programs or training via distance education.These are some of the courses you may take in your program:
Once you have received your certificate, you can think about certification. To become certified, you will take an exam that evaluates your knowledge. Most dental assistants who choose to become nationally certified take the Dental Assisting National Board's (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination.There are also educational opportunities available for dental assistants who wish to obtain a degree beyond the certificate level. Credits from dental assisting programs may also transfer into associate or baccalaureate degree programs.
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Last updated: June 9, 2016
©2012 American Dental Education Association