More and more people are flocking to a career in the dental industry; more specifically, a career in dental assisting. The growth and demand for dental assistants is skyrocketing, providing opportunities for many individuals to find long-term, successful work. If you find yourself interested in a career in dental assisting, or are currently a dental assisting student, or even a new program graduate, finding dental assistant jobs might seem like an overwhelming task. Although it might require some hard work, finding a job as a dental assistant is completely achievable and completely worth it, as you will quickly discover a rewarding and exciting career.
What Is a Dental Assistant?
If you have ever stepped foot in a dentist’s office before, it would be hard to miss the scrubbed-up employees buzzing around the office, quickly and seamlessly moving from one patient to the next. While it is relatively easy to distinguish the dentist from the rest of his staff, have you ever wondered what the difference is between the person cleaning your teeth and the employee who is constantly at the dentist’s side through every step of a procedure? Each employee at a dental office plays an integral role in the successful care and treatment of its patients. Dental hygienists are the ones who perform your six-month cleaning; ensuring the removal of any hard or soft deposits from your teeth along with preventing any decay. The main responsibility of a hygienist is to ensure your teeth remain in the best shape possible. However, ask any dental professional and they will tell you that it is the dental assistants that are the support system of the office. Tasked with a variety of duties, dental assistants are primarily responsible for:
- Aiding the dentist during routine procedures
- Managing patient charts and other office work
- Sterilization of equipment
- Creating impressions
- Educating patients about oral hygiene
- Taking and developing x-rays
This list is by no means comprehensive. A day in the life of a dental assistant means working in a patient-focused, fast-paced environment. Each day will bring new challenges and opportunities; rest assured, you will never have a boring day working as a dental assistant.
What Schooling or Training Is Required?
While it is possible to find a position in dental assisting with no prior schooling or training, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do so. To secure a successful position as a dental assistant, the best option is to receive formal training or schooling through an accredited program. In order to be accredited, the program must be recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
Due to their convenience and flexibility, online programs are extremely appealing to those individuals whose lives cannot accommodate a full-time school schedule. There are a variety of schools that offer online programs where the courses range from 50% online to completely online. Despite their convenience, it is important to note that if you decide to go this route, you should be a highly self-motivated individual who will be able to complete online course work with no problem. Otherwise, an online program might not be the best option for you.
Certified Dental Assistant Certification
There are a variety of paths you can take to become a trained dental assistant, but your main goal should be to receive your CDA, or Certified Dental Assisting certification. This certification will give you a leg-up on finding dental assistant jobs; not to mention it can also mean a higher starting salary. Remember, there is a high-demand for dental assistants, but the demand for more qualified, better trained candidates is even higher.
Different states have different requirements for receiving this credential. Generally, you can receive your CDA certificate after completing an accredited one-year program. Other states sometimes require a few years of work experience after graduation to receive this credential. Although not always required, receiving your CDA certificate is one of the best things you can do to secure the most sought after dental assistant jobs.
Finding Dental Assistant Jobs
You now have graduated from an accredited dental assisting program, hopefully with your CDA license in tow. Now what? While it may seem like a daunting task, finding dental assistant jobs can be made easier if you know what steps to take. Here are a few tips to help you cinch that dental assistant job you have been dreaming of.
Prepare Your Resume
While writing up a resume is few people’s favorite pastime, a stellar resume is something that can really set you apart from the rest when you are applying for dental assistant jobs. When preparing your resume, make sure you highlight anything that relates to your experience as a dental assistant. This includes:
- Hands-on training and experience
- Licenses and certificates
Sometimes finding a job is all about knowing the right people. Networking is a powerful tool that can help you get involved with prestigious members of the dental industry in your area. No matter where you live, there are most likely multiple online dental professional societies and groups. Getting involved in these groups can help you get noticed and get a job quickly. Your school is also another great place to help build and expand your network. Teachers, students, and counselors are all valuable resources that can also help you connect with the right people, and ultimately, the right jobs. These individuals have their own networks comprised of dental industry professionals that keep them up-to-date on the newest dental assistant jobs. Speaking with these people can help guide you to your first, or even your next, successful dental assisting job.
Dental Assistant Jobs
We live in a technologically advanced era where job ads are now posted directly online through social media, job search engines, etc. Long gone are the days of tirelessly searching through newspaper ads for any dental assistant jobs. Use technology to your advantage and cast your job net wide by applying to all dental assistant jobs that sound like they might be a good fit. However, if applying online is not landing you any interviews, it might be time to take your job search to the next level. Do not be afraid to visit dental offices directly to inquire about any dental assistant jobs. Always look highly polished and professional, as this is your first impression with possibly your next employer. Also, do not forget to bring a copy of your resume to leave with the front desk.
Some people say that getting an actual interview is the hardest part, but for many people, that might not be the case. Interviewing can be a stressful and tense situation, but it should not be. Interviews are a time to showcase just how amazing you are. When you land an interview, which you will, make sure you talk up your training, your experiences, and your well-rounded skills as a dental assistant.
If you have not heard back from the employer within a couple of days, a friendly follow-up phone call is always a good idea. Doing this also demonstrates to the employer you are sincerely interested in the position. However the outcome of the phone call or the interview process, always remain positive and friendly. You never know if this position could be yours in the future.
Despite all the schooling and training you might have, if you’re a new graduate from your dental assisting program you might find it difficult to get a job. The fact of the matter is, sometimes dentists prefer to hire dental assistants with years of experience as opposed to fresh assistants. Do not let this discourage you, as there are many other ways you can gain the experience needed to land the job you truly want. Volunteering is one of the best ways to get the experience so often required for many dental assistant jobs. Offering your services to a dental practice free-of-charge will give you real-life experience and skills as a dental assistant, while also allowing you to beef up your resume. Additional opportunities to volunteer your skills in exchange for experience often are easy to find through charities that provide free dental care to the poor and elderly.
After graduating from an accredited program, along with receiving your Certified Dental Assistant certificate, you will have the skills and training necessary to begin your career as a professional dental assistant. Although finding dental assistant jobs can sometimes seem like a daunting task for even the most seasoned dental assistants, it is extremely doable. If you are just beginning your career in dental assisting, it might require some hard work and dedication to secure a position. However, all of your efforts will be rewarded once you do secure a position as a dental assistant.
Dental assisting is quickly becoming one of today’s fastest growing and most popular careers, with a projected growth that is expected to last years into the future. As a newly employed professional dental assistant, you will benefit from all this career has to offer you. Your skills and expertise will be in high demand, especially as you continue to further expand your skill set and experience. Continually learn and push yourself as a dental assistant, and you can ensure that you there will be an endless amount of jobs available to you throughout your entire, successful career as a professional dental assistant.