What does a dental assistant do?
Dental assistants help dentists provide more efficient treatments by performing many patient care, laboratory, and office tasks. They prepare the patient, disinfect and sterilize equipment and instruments, prepare materials and instruments for procedures, and pass instruments during procedures. They also hold suction devices to keep the mouth of the patient dry. They give patients information on general oral health care and care after procedures. Dental assistants prepare x-ray equipment and often take x-rays of patients and process the film. Some apply topical anesthetics or cavity-prevention treatments, remove sutures, place rubber dams on teeth for procedures, and remove excess cement from filling procedures.
In the laboratory, dental assistants make temporary crowns, clean and polish removable devices, and make casts of teeth and mouth from impressions. The office tasks include obtaining dental records from patients, scheduling and confirming appointments, sending bills, obtaining payments, receiving patients, and ordering supplies and materials.
What kind of training does a dental assistant need?
Most dental assistants complete formal dental assisting programs through trade schools, community colleges, technical institutes or the Armed Forces. Programs include classroom instruction, laboratory experience, and practical experience through dental schools, dental offices, or clinics. Most dental assistants receive on the job training where they receive instruction on dental terminology, how to perform daily tasks, names of tools and instruments, how to interact with patients, and other necessary things.
Most states regulate the tasks dental assistants can perform and some require dental assistants to be licensed. Licensing requirements include passing an examination with written and practical components.
What are the prospects for a career as a dental assistant?
Employment of dental assistants is projected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 29% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Population growth and increased dental care needs such as preventative care and retention of natural teeth will drive job growth.
Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for dental assistants who have formal training and extensive experience. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace dental assistants who retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.
How much do dental assistants make?
As of September 2009, the middle 50% of dental assistants earned annual salaries between $29,705 and $36,213. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $39,031 (2).
A career as a dental assistant is an excellent choice for people interested in assisting in the dentistry field. Dental assistants must have great communication, manual dexterity, good eye-hand coordination, and be able to work as part of a team. Reliability, productivity, integrity, and loyalty are also great skills for dental assistants to possess.