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The Changing Face of Dentistry – Summit College

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As the field of dentistry evolves one thing seems certain—a growing need for dental assistants. 

Female dentist working with fake mouthFor those on the outside, dentistry may seem like one of those traditional professional fields that’s been around forever, will always be around, and not really change all that much.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Advances in technology, resources, and knowledge have consistently moved the field ahead in terms of patient treatment and service. Even with all of those changes over the years and decades, today dentistry is in the midst of some of the most significant changes it’s ever faced—and the ramifications for dental assistants is, in a word, exciting.

One thing virtually everyone agrees on is that the future for dental assistants is bright. In fact, according to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of dental assisting is projected to grow by 18 percent nationwide between the years 2014 and 2024—adding approximately 58,600 positions.

In the state of California, the rapid growth also is impressive. O*net Online projects the field to grow by 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, adding approximately 1,970 positions each year.

So for anyone interested in a career as a dental assistant, the outlook is good.

The profession is poised for significant growth over the next several years, and it’s a profession that requires a well-rounded set of skills. But what’s the reason for all of this growth? Here are four major factors that are contributing to the ever-expanding need for smart, well-trained dental assistants.

Older dentists are approaching retirement.

The numbers don’t lie, and there’s no denying that more and more dentists are approaching retirement. In fact, the age of the average dentist has been, and will continue to increase each year. A big reason for this is that many practicing dentists are part of the Baby Boomer generation. According to a recent report by the American Dental Association (ADA), 51 percent of all dentists are over the age of 50.

Why does this matter? It’s simple. Older, more established dentists have been less inclined to hire dental assistants and utilize them as part of their dental practice team, while younger dentists are more likely to embrace them as part of the team. So with more older dentists retiring from practice and an increasing number of younger dentists taking over, it will open up more opportunities for dental assistants where there previously hadn’t been.

A broader range of responsibilities taken on by dental assistants.

Two dentists working togetherIn years and decades past, dental assistants were regarded as helpers who would simply hand out instruments and clean up the treatment room. But the reality, and perception of what dental assistants are expected to do in today’s dental practice has changed dramatically. Today, dental assistants are key members of the dental office team and are relied upon for administrative responsibilities and assisting with patient care.

As a dental assistant, you’ll be in a unique position as it relates to the dental health team. While dentists and dental hygienists deal primarily with patient care, dental assistants are responsible for both administrative duties as well as patient care. Areas of responsibility include:

  • Applying sealants and fluoride treatments
  • Taking impressions of patients’ teeth
  • Sterilizing equipment and instruments
  • Assisting during treatment procedures
  • Greeting patients
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Processing billing and payments
  • Gathering patient histories
  • Instructing patients on oral healthcare
  • Processing dental X-rays
  • Updating patient dental records
  • Easing and preparing patients for dental care

Increased demand for the delivery of dental health treatment.

The American population is aging. The Baby Boomer generation represents a massive segment of the U.S. population, and today a higher percentage of our population is over the age of 65 than at any other time in our country’s history. With more people living longer, and an increased proliferation of periodontal disease, the need for dental care also will continue to be on the uptick. In addition to older patients, younger Americans are more and more attuned to the importance of dental health and seeking care more regularly.

Additionally, research indicates that oral health and general health are linked and effectively go hand-in-hand. This being the case, there will be increased demand for preventative dental treatment. This means more patients seeking out routine treatments and check-ups, which will contribute to an increased need for dental assistants.

More people with access to dental health benefits and insurance.

While it’s difficult to know exactly what will happen with regards to healthcare coverage in the United States in the future, the simple fact is that the Affordable Care Act—also known as Obamacare—remains the law of the land. As such, more and more Americans have access to health benefits that includes dental coverage than in recent years. As a result, more and more are going to take advantage of that coverage and seek out dental treatment and preventative care.

These are just a few contributing factors to the projected increases in employment of dental assistants over the coming years. And experts don’t expect the trend to change anytime soon. So the next step for anyone looking to take advantage of what’s happening in the field and pursue a career as a dental assistant, is finding the kind of educational and training program that offers the classroom theory and hands-on training that prepares students to hit the ground running.

The Dental Assisting program at Summit College is designed to prepare students with a strong foundation in relevant theoretical knowledge, along with extensive hands-on training. The program features modern facilities and laboratories, so that students train using the same equipment and technology they’ll encounter in real-world professional settings.

Areas of study include:

  • Oral health and nutrition
  • Oral cavity anatomy
  • Dental terminology
  • Patient anxiety and relief
  • Orthodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Coronal polishing
  • Dental office management

Summit College is accredited by the Accreting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and has been serving the educational needs of students throughout California for more than 25 years.

The Dental Assistant program offers coronal polishing and X-ray training, which are approved by the Dental Board of California. It’s offered through convenient, daytime classes and can be completed in as little as nine months.

Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Dental facilities
  • Endodontic offices
  • Orthodontics offices
  • Hospital dental clinics
  • Public health facilities
  • Dental supply manufacturers

Students in the program enjoy the personalized guidance, supportive environment, and individualized focus on student success that has characterized Summit College since its founding.