Like many other jobs in the medical industry, dental assistant’s position is in great demand. Dental assistants work under the supervision of a certified and licensed dentist. They perform a wide range of valuable laboratory, patient care and standard clerical duties. Dental assistants sterilize instruments and get them ready for the dentist, take dental X-rays and laboratory tests, update patient records, and perform many other tasks for the dentist. Dental assistants must be certified in order to prove they possess the skills required to perform this role.
Dental Assistant Job Responsibilities
The duties of dental assistants include both clerical and dental services. The level of tasks performed varies from one dental office to another. Office tasks performed by dental assistants include greeting patients, scheduling appointments, ordering supplies, filing patient charts and processing payment for services. Dental assistants can assist dentists during cleanings and procedures. Different states have different regulations when it comes to the types of services dental assistants can offer a dentist. In most states, dental assistants are allowed to provide the dentist with tools during a procedure, operate the suction device during a procedure and insert a dental dam in the mouth of the patient. They also help make the patient comfortable throughout a procedure. They can change the television channel, adjust the temperature or provide the patient with protection glasses to keep debris or water away from the patient’s eyes during a procedure.
Dental Assistant On-the-Job Training
In many states, there is no formalized education or training requirements to become a dental assistant; dentists are allowed to train their own assistants, and in other states there are strict requirements for certification and registration. Each state has its own requirements and standards for training and certification. In states that don’t require formalized education, the dentist provides training to the new assistant. The dentist or other dental assistant in the office trains the new assistant on dental terminology, the function of instruments, office rules for patient caregiving, and the other normal procedures and duties. On-the-job training is an on-going program that may last many months before a dental assistant trainee can work independently. While apprenticing in the dental office, the candidate has the chance to learn many of the dental assistant responsibilities and tasks that are required as a daily routine. It is important to keep in mind that while training in the dental office, it is a good idea to pursue independent study also. This help make it easier for the trainee to learn the job and also help to keep the trainee informed on the latest dental procedures. Although it is not as structured as the educational or training programs offered by a local educational institution, on-the-job training can be extremely thorough and effective. Once the apprenticeship is completed, the trainee is eligible to apply for certification examination.
Dental Assistant Formal Education
Dental assistants are required to have knowledge of how to manage dental office operations and become familiar with dental ethics and law, dental records management procedures. Dental assistants learn oral and dental hygiene, terminology and anatomy, and communication skills required for interacting with patients. For states where formal dental assistant training and education are required, there are several options available to dental assistant students. There are accredited two-year dental assisting programs and three-year dental assisting programs. These programs are available nationwide at most community colleges. Technical and vocational schools offer courses that take six to twelve months; however, many states may not recognize such courses. Formal education and certification, ensures opportunities for career advancement and employment.
Dental Assistant Certification Exam
Upon completion of the required education or training, students may take the dental assisting certification exam. This examination is required by many states. This exam consists of three components: Radiation and Health Safety which is designed to test candidates on their knowledge of safety requirements and X-ray equipment; Infection Control component is designed to test candidates’ understanding of safe equipment handling and proper sanitizing procedure to minimize the spread of infection; General Chairside Assisting tests candidates’ knowledge to perform dental assistant functions. To become eligible to take this exam, applications are required to provide documents showing that they have completed dental assistant training at a training school accredited by the Commission on Dental Assisting. Applicants who have satisfied the requirement of 3500 hours of on-the-job dental assisting training can take the exam. Getting certification in dental assisting will provide opportunities for increased earning potential and more recognition on the job. A passing score on the examination is required to become certified as a dental assistant.
Dental Assistant Salary and Wages
Dental assistants, generally, get paid a low salary in the beginning compared to other jobs in the medical field. Entry-level dental assistants without x-ray certification may get paid only $9 to $13 an hour, depending on several factors. Location can affect the salary of a certified dental assistant. Work experience is another factor that determines how much a dental assistant can earn. Also the type of specialization plays a big role in determining the salary of a dental assistant. Specializations in dental assisting include cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics and dental hygiene.