What Do Dental Assistants Do?
A dental assistant helps a dentist. A dental assistant might set up equipment, prepare patients for treatment and help keep patient records. A dental assistant is different than a dental hygienist.This career field is expected to see a 25% growth across the United States over the next few years. That could translate into about 13,720 new job openings annually.
Dental Assistants Skills and Abilities
A dental assistant should have knowledge about dentistry. They should also have great customer service skills and be capable of a high level of communication. It’s important for a dental assistant to be team oriented, an active listener and able to help calm patients. A dental assistant will likely have to work with patients of all ages, so they should be good at communicating ideas clearly to adults and children alike. It is important for a dental assistant to be able to read and understand ideas because there may be notes in the patient’s file that the assistant has to follow closely.
Dental Assistants Duties
If you aim to become a dental assistant, you may be expected to:
- Take patient to proper room, sterilize instruments, set up trays and assist the dentist during procedures.
- Record treatment and patient information in the patient records.
- Explain postoperative instructions to patient as prescribed by the dentist.
- Order and inventory dental supplies and the equipment.
- Pour, trim and polish study casts including making preliminary impressions.
- Clean teeth and apply fluoride as necessary.
- Ensure retainers, wires and bands are properly being used and fit into the patient’s mouth.
- Schedule appointments, keep track of bills, take payments, ensure insurance forms are completed and maintain important records.
The tasks of a dental assistant will vary depending on the institution and the level of education, but these are a few tasks that may be done.
Dental Assistants Tools and Technology
There are a lot of tools and technology that a dentist assistant uses throughout their career. You should be familiar with:
- Molar Clamps
- Rubber Dams
- Extracting Forceps
- Tongue Forceps
- Dental Hand Pieces
- Band Seating Pliers
- Dental Crimping Pliers
- Steam Cleaning Equipment
- Accounting Software
- Medical Software
These tools make it easier to be an efficient dental assistant.
Education and Training for Dental Assistants
In order to be a dental assistant, you have to at least have a postsecondary non-degree award. Some institutions may want you to have your Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Because there are technical aspects to the job, it would be helpful to take a few courses like:
- Dental Office Administration
- Fundamentals of Dentistry
- Dental Pharmacology
- Dental Radiography
These courses will give you the technical knowhow you need to be a well-rounded dental assistant.
Dental Assistants Salary
The average dental assistant in the United States makes about $35,400. Of course, this salary depends greatly on where you live, what education you have and how much experience you bring to the table. If you are just starting out, it is likely that you would make what the lower 10% make, which is about $24,600. If you have a lot of experience, you may make what the upper 10% make, which is about $49,500.
Dental Assistants Jobs by Geography
Because the salary does depend on location, it is not surprising that certain states, like New Hampshire, Alaska and Minnesota, have a higher average salary for dental assistants than the average for the United States. However, when you start looking at becoming a dental assistant, you can’t just look at the average salary. You have to look at job availability as well. In that vein, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia are expected to see the most growth in the dental assistant occupation. Also, California, New York and Texas are the states with the most dental assistant positions, but not necessarily the most available positions. When you start thinking about your career, you have to consider where you’ll live, what type of institution you’ll work for and what sort of education you’ll pursue.