The Dental Assistant’s Duties
The duties performed by an assistant in a dental job will include the care of the instruments the dentist uses to take care of the patients. The dental records will be pulled by the assistant prior to the dentist seeing the patient. Assistants provide any help the dentist needs while caring for the patient. They may be responsible for taking x-rays for the dentist to view and for advising the dental patient on how to care for their teeth and gums. Dental jobs vary by the skill level one wishes to achieve. Training with a dentist, in addition to attending dental school, allows you to get hands-on experience in this field.
The dental assistant may be responsible for many aspects of dental procedures such as removing sutures, coronal polishing and processing x-rays, depending upon certain training and experience they have accumulated. The dental assistant can do many things previously performed by only the dentist.
Some dental assistants may have lab experience and this allows for a variety of duties: making casts of teeth, making temporary crowns, and taking care of removable appliances from patients. The office duties of a dental assistance include taking payments, setting and confirming appointments, and keeping records of appointments. They may also have to order equipment for the office and take care of payment. Sending bills to the patients is another part of the dental assistant job, if you are learning office procedures as well.
Dental assisting jobs are usually full-time, unless the assistant is attending school. The dental office will determine the hours worked by the assistant; some may have Saturday hours. The assistant will sometimes work evenings as well as weekend hours by appointment or if an emergency should require the dentist to open his office.
Education Required for Dental Assistants
Those who are still in high school that may be thinking of becoming a dental assistant should take courses that are related to the field. Biology, chemistry, and health courses for starters, and office-skills classes would help as well. There are dental-assistance-training programs available that are geared specifically towards the prospective dental assistant. Part of the course is conducted in the classroom and part in the laboratory, to allow students to acquire the knowledge from all aspects of dental assistance schooling.
Some dental schools offered reduced fees for dental work performed by dental assistants and those who wish to go further. There are also private schools that offer training courses in this field for four to six months, but they are not accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The vocational courses offered are accredited; however, they are normally about a year long.
There are also two-year programs at area community and junior colleges to study for dental assistant jobs. These courses will allow the student to get an associate’s degree. They are strict on admissions standard, though, and require either a high school diploma or GED and courses prior to admittance in science or computers.
Many dental assistants get on-the-job training from a dentist. This is a great way to learn some of the technical terms for dental equipment, problems with teeth, and the office routine, if this is the part in which you will be working. They will also learn the correct way of dealing with patients so that the office functions as it is supposed to.
The dental assistant job will require on-the-job training even for assistants who have completed a dental assistant program, because every dentist runs his or her office differently. The duties of dental assistants are usually regulated by the state in which they work. There are many states that require an assistant to be licensed. This consists of taking and passing a written examination. There are states that require the assistant to pass a state education course, and other states register assistants with basically no requirements. Some states rely on the dentist’s discretion as to what his or her assistant is allowed to do when it comes to the dental office.
The hourly earnings of dental assistants are usually around $14.50. This can vary according to the area in which you live and work. The middle 50 percent earn between $11.90 and $17.00 per hour. The largest percentage in the top ten percent are earning $20.00 plus per hour, while the bottom ten percent were earning $9.87 an hour. The wages are based upon full-time employment, and many dentists offer the assistant reimbursement for continuing education.
Advancement opportunities are available for dental assistants, but not without further education. The assistant can become a dental hygienist or even a dentist if the desire is there to further their education.