Among the duties performed in dental careers such as that of the assistant is to process dental x-rays as the dentist directs, prepare materials for restoration or for impressions, and may also assist in certain dentistry functions that are restorative, provided the necessary training has been provided for this type of dental career.
In all cases, dental systems work closely under the supervision of dentists. They are not dental hygienists, who perform other, different tasks.
Educational requirements of dental assistants
Dental assistants don't necessarily need formal education to undertake this specific dental career, although there are an increasing number of dental assistant formal programs offered by junior and community colleges. The armed forces also offer training in becoming a dental assistant. Most of these programs take a year to complete. Dental assistants may also have other, more advanced job duties, such as doing radiological procedures, but this takes more training and in some cases may require licensing or certification as well.
Therefore, if you are a high school student and you want a career as a dental assistant, you should take courses in chemistry, biology, office work, and health; in some cases, no further training beyond that may be needed and you may get the rest of your training on the job. You can, however, pursue further education; the Commission in Dental Accreditation has approved many dental assistant training programs. With these programs, you'll do work in the laboratory, classroom, and in the clinic to practice dental assistant skills and learn about the profession in general. Again, most of these programs take a year to complete and will give you a certification or diploma.
You may also undertake a two-year program at a junior or community college, in which case you get an associates degree. You may also need to have further computer skills or computer courses to get admission to one of these programs. Finally, even if you have completed formal training, you may need additional on-the-job training to adequately perform job duties.
Job outlook and compensation
The job outlook for dental assistants is very good, with employment expected to grow more than 35% in the next 10 years. This is among the fastest-growing occupations considered during that time period, in fact.
On average and over all levels of experience and certification, dental assistants made about $32,000 as of 2008.