Oral hygiene is a crucial part of one’s overall health and can be an indicator of other health problems. With this in mind, it is easy to understand just how important dentists and the services that they render to their patients are to the health of the public. However, dentists alone cannot perform all of the necessary functions of a dental practice, which is why dental assistants are equally as vital as the dentists themselves.
As one can probably infer, dental assistants assist dentists as well as orthodontists and other doctors who deal with oral health. Dental assistants not only assist the doctors with important aspects of patient care, they also handle back office administrative and clerical tasks.
The duties of a dental assistant working in the healthcare field may include some or all of the following:
- Sanitizing dental equipment
- Providing patients with oral health information and suggestions
- Updating patient dental treatments
- Scheduling appointments
- Taking and processing X-rays
This list is far from comprehensive, and dental assistants may complete other tasks as directed by the dentist who supervises them. Dentists, orthodontists, prosthodontists and other oral health doctors may have their names on the office and get the recognition, but dental assistants are the ones who keep the office running.
As we will discuss later in this post, the dental assistant profession is alive and well, with the uptick in employment anticipated to continue in the coming years. The promising compensation will be discussed as well.
Becoming a dental assistant typically requires the completion of a training program, either at a community college, trade school or vocational school, which awards aspiring dental assistants with certificates. Training program graduates may require further certification or licensing following the conclusion of their education, depending on where they seek employment.
Requirements for certification and licensure vary from state to state and can be found on the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) website. Depending on the state, dental assistants may be allowed to perform procedures such as applying sealant, anesthetics or fluoride, as well as coronal polishing.
Now that we have covered some basic background information about the dental assisting profession, we will now delve into five reasons why studying to become a dental assistant is a great life choice.
1. Dental Assistants have an Increasing Job Demand
As is the case with many healthcare professions in recent years, the job outlook for dental assistants is quite promising.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of dental assistants to grow by 18 percent through 2024, in comparison to 2014. An estimated 58,600 jobs will be available during this span.
The BLS attributes the increase in part to the aging of the baby boomer generation, as well as more people wanting to keep their real teeth instead of opting for dentures. The rise in the number of people who have health insurance is also contributing to the need for more dental assistants.
2. Dental Assistants Compensation Comparable to Other Health Professionals
On top of their employment outlook being better than those of most occupations, dental assistants earn wages that are on par with other healthcare professionals of similar rank. As of May 2016, the median salary of dental assistants was $36,940, according to the BLS.
It is worth noting that approximately one third of dental assistants only work part time and that their earnings are also part of the data set. The top 10 percent of dental assistants earned upwards of $52,200 annually, per the BLS.
Dental assistants make more money in some states than in others, and the level of compensation can be affected by experience and additional certifications.
3. Dental Assistants ability to Start at Any Time
Many trade schools and community colleges offer dental assistant education programs multiple times per year. Such programs also tend to take 12 months or fewer to complete, with some that can be finished in as little as nine months’ time.
This makes the dental assistant profession a solid choice for individuals who are seeking to change careers or who are just out of high school and want to learn a skilled profession without attending a four-year college or university. Many training programs are offered during days, nights and even weekends to accommodate the schedules of those eager to learn a new trade.
Regardless of whether one is a recent high school graduate or someone who has worked an office job for a few decades, dental assisting is a profession that can be picked up at almost any stage of life.
4. Dental Assistants are able to Better the Lives of Others
Like countless other healthcare occupations, the focus of dental assistants is to better the lives of the patients who visit a dental practice. Dental assistants can take pride in knowing that they are helping the practice’s patients with whatever oral ailments might have brought them there.
Dental assistants perform important tasks such as sterilizing equipment, taking X-rays, maintaining patient records and helping dentists perform surgeries and other procedures. As mentioned in the opening of this post, dental assistants are essential to the goings on of a dental office, including patient care, as the doctors. And for that, they can rightfully feel a sense of satisfaction.
5. Dental Assistants have Variety and Flexibility on the Job
Dental assistants also have the luxury of having the flexibility to work part time in some cases, if their employer approves. To reiterate part of the “Compensation” section of this post, nearly one third of dental assistants worked part time in 2014, per BLS data.
Another luxury afforded to dental assistants is the ability to work in any number of dental offices and facilities. Once fully trained, dental assistants can work in settings such as endodontic and orthodontic offices, hospital clinics, public health facilities and, of course, dental offices.
A Good Dental Assistant Program Can Make the Summit Difference
A good dental assisting education can provide aspiring dental assistants with effectively creating a foundation of essential skills on which to build their careers. Summit College’s Dental Assistant program teaches students the theoretical knowledge and technical skills they need to aid dentists in the workforce.
The Dental Assistant program takes nine months to complete and is offered at Summit College’s Colton campus. Day, night and weekend classes are available to provide students with flexibility to fit learning a new profession into their busy lives. It also allows students to enter the field in a shorter length of time compared to their four-year college counterparts.
The instructors of Summit College’s Dental Assistant program are highly trained professionals with significant experience in the field. They will guide students in both classroom and laboratory coursework at Summit’s modern facilities, providing them with the needed individual attention along the way.
In Summit’s Dental Assistant program, students will gain an abundance of relevant skills and knowledge. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Oral anatomy
- Office management
- Dental terminology
In addition to these skills and topics, the Summit College Dental Assistant program curriculum consists of courses in subjects such as advanced chair-side functions, preparation of patient care and dental radiology.
Summit College’s Dental Assistant program prides itself on effectively preparing students for 12 months of paid experience working under a licensed dentist, in addition to other testing requirements needed for certification. The state of California requires dental assistants to be certified.
Once students achieve certification, they are ready to assist dentists and other oral healthcare professionals in a multitude of different dental environments.
Summit College also offers students career assistance in finding employment, including resume help, mock interviews and externships. This wealth of resources can help dental assistant students on their way to making the most of the lucrative openings in their field.
In 2015, dental assistants in California earned a median salary of $37,220, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). On the high end of the spectrum, some California dental assistants came close to making $58,000, per O*NET data.
Dental assistants play a vital role in helping dentists provide optimal oral care. Set yourself apart from the field with a stellar dental assisting education. What are you waiting for? Discover the Summit Difference. Get started today at summitcollege.edu.