Becoming a Dental Assistant – the Job Duties, Expected Salary and Educational Requirements
Becoming a dental assistant can be a great career choice for a lot of people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment of dental assistants is expected to grow by 36 percent over the next decade which they say is among the fastest-growing occupations over that projected time period. On this page I would like to go over the job duties of a dental assistant as well as the training and educational requirements and of course how much money you might expect to make.
The job duties of a dental assistant
As a dental assistant your primary responsibility will of course be to assist the dentist that you work for. You will be expected to keep the workplace and the dental instruments clean and sterile. You will need to obtain and review the dental history of the patients and you’ll need to make sure that a patient’s health history is up to date. You will also need to perform x-rays to produce inter-oral images of a patient’s mouth when required. You will be responsible for handing the dentist instruments and materials while they work and you will have to keep a patient’s mouth clear and dry using suction devices and other equipment.
There are also some social elements to this job because you will be greeting patients and escorting them from the waiting room to the dental chair and you will also be instructing them on how to maintain good oral hygiene. You will also need to update the patient’s charts with the treatment they had that day and any notes that the dentist gives you.
How much money you might expect to make as a dental assistant
According to salary.com the median expected annual income for a dental assistant in the United States is $33,062. They compile their data by talking to HR departments at employers of various sizes and in different areas across the country. The number above is an average and you may earn more or less depending on a number of factors. Your level of training and education can certainly have an effect on how much money you earn and with more training you can expect to earn a little bit more money. Of course if you have any prior experience in this field you can also earn more money. Another factor that will have a significant effect on how much you will be able to earn is what part of the country you work in. For instance if you live and work in Ohio you might expect to earn approximately $13 per hour as a dental assistant but if you live and work in New York City you might expect to earn $17 per hour in the same position.
What are the requirements for becoming a dental assistant?
First, you must possess a high school diploma or equivalent. You must also pass any training courses that might be mandated for certification or licensing by the state that you work in. Formal education to become a dental assistant is not required by law but most employers would like to see an Associates degree which could be completed in two years or a certificate from an accredited college or technical school which can usually be completed in about one year.
You will also need to check with any additional requirements for the state that you live and work in. For example in California you will need to take a board approved course in the Dental Practice Act. You’ll also need to complete a board approved course in infection control. This course lasts approximately 8 hours. You will also need to complete a course in basic life support and the course would be offered by an instructor approved by the Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Those are some of the additional requirements for becoming a dental assistant in California and it is possible that the state you live in may have similar requirements. Any school that you go to in order to earn your Associates degree or equivalent accreditation will be familiar with and inform you of any of these kinds of requirements.