Dentists perform a wide variety of procedures on their patients' teeth. If there are cavities or signs of impending problems, dentists talk to the patient and put together a treatment plan. They do root canals and install dental implants. Cosmetic dentistry includes both simple whitening processes and complicated orthodontic procedures. Some people need repair to their teeth and gums because of damage done by chemicals, stress, or age. Others may require surgery on their jaws following trauma or accidents of some type. There are many dental subspecialties and all of them utilize technical support in some basic capacities. Let's take a look at various dental job openings, and look at the subspecialties a little later.
This is the first person you meet when you walk into a dentist's office. You can work as a dental receptionist if you know how to greet patients who arrive in the office and can obtain their registration information. The minimum education requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent, and you should have some previous background working in the healthcare field. This is the frontline of all dental jobs. In this capacity you are obtaining up-to-date information on your patients' address, medical history, and insurance information. You also make certain they understand the dentist's policies. Computer experience is helpful, because most offices use computers to schedule appointments and process billing. Dental receptionists earn approximately $18,000–$25,000 per year, or more depending on their geographic area.
The next person in your dental experience is the person who cleans your teeth. People in these types of jobs have completed an associate's degree in college or a two-year dental hygienist program. It is also necessary to pass a state certification examination. You need to be patient with people and good at working with your hands to be a hygienist. The primary work of the hygienist is to clean the teeth and prepare them for the dentist's examination. This requires skill with the equipment used to clean hard and soft build-up that accumulates on teeth. Hygienists also instruct patients in the proper care of teeth. You need to educate people about the importance of regular brushing and flossing and help them to understand how their nutritional choices affect their teeth. Additional responsibilities might include performing dental x-rays and applying fluoride treatments or sealants to teeth. As a certified and licensed dental hygienist, you can expect to make $45,000–$55,000 per year.
Once the dentist has examined the patient's teeth and discussed what work will be performed, he or she needs a skilled chair-side assistant. Some dental assistants receive on-the-job training, but most often they have completed training at a technical trade institute. Many states require passing a written test or completing some other type of registration process. The assistant prepares amalgams or other chemical compositions used in the repair of teeth. If you are in one of these dental jobs, you prepare your patients by inserting clamps or rubber blocks to hold their mouths or teeth in position for the dentist. You have to keep suctioning the patient's mouth while the dentist does his work. Sometimes you need to take out sutures; other times you will be cleaning off excess compounds from the teeth after the dentist is finished. Some dental assistants also perform x-rays, but most personnel who do this have to take extra radiography classes during their training. Dental assistants often earn around $35,000–$40,000 per year.
Dental Lab Technicians
Lab technicians are the people who help in the preparation of dental prosthetics. Like the dental assistant, a lab technician might work his or her way into this position through experience, but most technicians have some post-high school training in a vocational or technical training school. To help in the manufacture of crowns, bridges, and dentures, you have to like working with people. They need to feel comfortable while you are casting a mold of their teeth. This also requires a bit of artistic finesse, as you first use plaster to cast the mold, create a wax model to be used for the metal framework, apply porcelain to the frame to make the artificial teeth, and complete the dentures by matching their color and texture to the patient's own. Lab technicians earn approximately $30,000–$35,000 per year.
You can find many dental jobs available that will put you at the top of the salary range if you specialize. Many hygienists or assistants work only with pediatric patients. Others become interested in subspecialties such as orthodontics. Periodontics is the treatment of gum diseases. Endodontics involves challenging root canals and similar procedures. Prosthodontics is the field of artificial mouth implants or attachments. If you work in an oral maxillofacial surgeon's office you assist with surgical procedures such as complicated extractions or rewiring jaws that have been broken in accidents or have been damaged by disease.
Whether you decide to work in general dentistry or specialize, those who take dental jobs can rest assured that they are employed in a secure and growing field. Smile. You're earning a nice living and making people feel better too.