An enjoyment of working with people is a must for those seeking a job as a dental assistant. As with most healthcare jobs the dental assistant works in direct contact with the patients and will need to be able to make patients comfortable, answer their questions and allay any fears. You will prepare them for treatment and obtain their dental records for the dentist. You will assist the dentist during treatment by handing him instruments and materials and keep the patients mouth dry with suction and other devices. After treatment you will be in charge of sterilizing and disinfecting the equipment and prep tray set ups for procedures. You will also instruct patients on postoperative and general oral heath care. In many offices you will also make dental impressions and restoration, expose and process dental radiographs and x-ray films as the dentist directs.
Some other procedures that are a part of many dental assistant jobs include suture removal, application of anesthetics to gums or the application of cavity-preventative agent to teeth, removal of excess cement used in the filling process and placing of rubber dams on the teeth to isolate them of treatment. In some offices you may also be involved in scheduling appointments, keeping patient records and the billing and ordering of supplies and materials. Dental assistants are never stuck in a rut; with this wide variety of duties each day brings its own set of challenges that keep an employee fresh and the work interesting.
Dental assisting is a very rewarding healthcare job. You will be involved in helping relieve and restore those with dental problems to good health and encourage and instruct them on how to maintain it as you assist the dentist in all aspects of patient treatment and care. You will help the office run smoothly and efficiently and perform skilled tasks for which you have been trained. Dental job opportunities are expected to grow; and dental recruitment for jobs as dental assistants will continue to grow as well. In fact the demand for dental assistants is projected to outstrip those applying for these jobs at least until the year 2016. The Bureau of Labor statistics predicts that dental assistant jobs will be the third fastest growing occupation for which a degree is not required.
Many dental assistants learn their skills on the job and start their careers with just a high school diploma. There are dental assisting programs offered by community and junior colleges, trade schools, technical schools, and even the Armed Forces. High School students who may be thinking of a dental assistant career should take courses in biology, chemistry and health as well as office practices.
Dental assistants need to have good manual dexterity and the ability to work well with others. They must be responsible, reliable and able to follow directions. In some states those applying for a job as a dental assistant may be required to pass a written or practical exam. Dental assistants who are to perform specialized duties such as radiological procedures may also be required to complete the Radiation Health and Safety examinations that is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board. Some states also require an applicant to pass a state approved course in radiology.
A dental career as an assistant rewards the wage earner with a median wage of $31,550 (U.S.) per year. Starter salaries are somewhat less and those with added skills or years of experience can year more that this figure with the average hourly wage in 2007 at $13.62 for those in the United States. Opportunities for advancement exist but are limited. Dental assistants can become office managers, dental-assisting instructors or dental product sales representatives. With further education more advancement opportunities are open and some dental assistants become dental hygienists after going back to school.
In 2006 there were about 280,000 dental assistants at work in the United States. Most work in dentist offices but some are employed in physician’s offices, educational services and hospitals. About one-third of dental assistants are employed part time and some work in more than one dental practice. For those looking for employment that is challenging, carries varying duties and that does not require a degree, dental assisting is a great career choice. You will have the satisfaction of helping people, a professional work environment and good pay. So the next time you find yourself in a dental chair, talk with the assistant and watch what they do, and perhaps this might just be the career for you.