When people think health care most immediately think doctor or dentist. When they open an office the need a support staff. Doctors need nurses and receptionists. Dentists need hygienists and dental assistants.
Becoming a dental assistant does not require a person to go to a four year college. In a relatively short amount of time you can get your certification and licensing. You can graduate from different programs starting from 12 weeks to 24 months.
Learning to be a dental assistant involves classroom study, clinical work and laboratory training. The student will learn about teeth, jaws, dental instruments and procedures. Classes include oral exams, medical terms, dental materials, teeth and gum infections, radiology, maintenance and understanding of charts. To learn to assist in the office classes must be taken to learn bookkeeping, understanding dental insurance and proper interaction with patients, and staff.
Clinical training is another aspect of learning to be a dental assistant. Many schools require a certain number of hours to be completed before you can get your certification. This experience is gained through work and observation at dental offices.
Dental Assisting can be a varied career and what you do each day depends on your specific dentist’s office.
Working with Patients:
• Make the patients comfortable
• Prepare patients for the dental exam
• Sterilize and lay out the dentist’s instruments
• Hand the dentist instruments as needed
• Take x-rays and develop them
• Remove stitches
• Apply topical anesthetics to gums
• Apply fluoride
Managing the dentist office:
• Answering the phone
• Making appointments
• Greeting patients and helping them fill out forms
• Applying in-office payments
• Issuing invoices
• Ordering and receiving office supplies
• Make plaster casts of teeth and mouth
• Clean and polish removable mouth apparatus
• Measure for orthodontics
The need for dental assistants is growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that it anticipates more than 74,000 new openings up to 2022 creating a growth rate of 24.5 percent. Several reasons for the growth can be attested to that people are taking much better care of their teeth, as well as increased dental insurance allowing more people to go to the dentist more often.
There are other perks in becoming a dental assistant. Most offices are only open Monday through Friday. Very few dentists keep hours on Saturdays, and if they are open, it is usually only for a half day. The hours are normally pretty great too, quite often 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Of course this is subject to change and is dependent on the dentist’s needs. A lot of dental offices require its staff to wear scrubs. Some offices even purchase scrubs for its employees so everyone will be dressed uniformly. Wearing scrubs is a terrific way to save money. Scrubs are not nearly as expensive as buying a work wardrobe.
Becoming a dental assistant is a wide open field. There are plenty of jobs, the pay is good and the hours are easy. This might just be the job for you!
Written by Diana Sambas, who is an Instructor at Academy of Dental Careers’ Las Vegas office.