A dental assistant fills an important role in any dental office. Some of the duties of a dental assistant include prepping patients for the dentist, sterilizing equipment before and after each use, and assisting the dentist during certain procedures by providing the needed tools.
Types of Degrees
An individual interested in becoming a dental assistant can enter the field with only a high school education and gather on the job training. However, most dental offices prefer employees have additional education.
Dental assistant training courses will typically take one year to complete to obtain a certificate. In contrast, community colleges or junior colleges’ programs will typically take two years to complete and result in an associate’s degree in the field.
Dental Assistant Training Requirements
Although most states do not have any educational requirements for those entering the field, most community colleges, technical schools, and junior colleges offer a dental assistant training program. There are currently 281 accredited dental assistant training programs available across the United States.
Students can expect to attend courses both in the classroom and in the laboratory throughout their education. Also, there are many other necessary courses, such as those covering the history of the profession.
There are several classes that a student will be expected to take during their dental assistant training program. All dental assistants must be trained in first aid and CPR. An introductory course to the dental profession will also be taken to learn the basics of the industry.
Additionally, some of the classes include clinical chairside assisting, dental materials, infection control, laboratory procedures, specialties, oral, head, and neck anatomy, tooth morphology, and oral pathology. Other classes that may seem a surprising part of the curriculum include embryology, histology, anatomy, microbiology, and physiology.
Dental Assistant Licensure and Certification
The type of education an individual has will determine the types of jobs they can perform. Most states have regulations on the duties that a dental assistant will be allowed to perform.
Depending on the state, dental assistants may need additional education to perform x-rays or other expanded functions of the office.
Some states require dental assistants to be licensed, for which the regulations vary by state. For this reason, it is important to contact the state board to determine the requirements for licensing.
Dental Assistant Job Outlook
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of dental assistant jobs is expected to grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029, which is a faster than average rate than other jobs. This is one of the fastest-growing careers during this time.
A dental assistant’s average salary was $39,410 in 2019, with the highest-earning $47,665 and the lowest-earning around $30,892. Most dental assistants receive health benefits and vacation time when working full-time as well.
The training involved to become a dental assistant is minimal, with most of the training coming after an offer of employment has been received. Job prospects for dental assistants are extremely positive, making this an excellent career choice.