It takes a sensitive person to work in the field pediatric dentistry. Kids are scared. Parents are apprehensive. The Pediatric Dental Assistant (PDA) is not a job sought by everyone, but if you have your heart set on this profession, learning as much as you can about what to expect is a great way to start your journey.
About the training. According to the American Dental Association (http://www.ada.org/en/home-ada/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-assistant), there are 256+ dental assistant training programs in the US–and these are just the ADA-certified schools. Before you declare your PDA specialty, undertake training universal to all dental assistants: graduate high school or obtain a GED certificate, attend a community college, public or private trade school that leads to certificates or get an associate’s degree in dental assisting. Expect to attend classes for two years unless you choose a short certificate program.
What to expect from the job. Your ability to remain calm and composed will serve you well as a PDA. You will be called upon to undertake routine duties like preparing examining rooms, entertaining youngsters before the dentist arrives, assisting with treatments and then cleaning and sterilizing equipment and patient care areas to maintain stringent infection control protocols. You might also book appointments, take x-rays, teach kids to brush and floss, answer phones and do practice-specific tasks bringing you into contact with other team members. Join a small practice and you may even be trained to handle billing or undertake accounting tasks.
Career advantages. Given the universality of dentistry and the growing trend toward niche dental practices, your career as a PDA can take you wherever you want to go. Stay in your hometown or spread your wings and relocate to the place you’ve dreamed about. The right practice is sure to offer plenty of variety, flexibility and personal satisfaction. Work part-time, if you can afford to do so.
Your specialty. You may be surprised to learn the number of options available to pediatric dental assistants. Pick the practice area that suits your personality: single practitioner, group practice, specialty practice (e.g., orthodontists), public health dentistry–even dental school clinics. You may discover that direct patient contact isn’t for you, but you can still use your PDA training to move effortlessly into auxiliary industries like dental insurance, industry trade organizations and dental product sales.
What can you earn? Many factors impact earning capacity. Some are: Geographic area, level of education, years of experience and the acquisition of accreditations, certifications, advance certificates, affiliation with pediatric dental organizations and other earned credentials. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks salary earnings by specialty and while the latest figures found on the www.bls.gov website are from 2012, you can still estimate potential earnings from that year’s salary range of between $12.00 and $17.50 per hour.
Where to find jobs. Prepare a resume and search for PDA jobs on websites like http://www.indeed.com/q-Pediatric-Dental-Assistant-jobs.html, http://www.careerbuilder.com/jobs/keyword/pediatric-dental-assistant/ and http://www.simplyhired.com/k-pediatric-dental-assistant-jobs.html. Access location-specific websites like http://www.careerjet.com/pediatric-dental-assistant-jobs/north-carolina-17228.html. Check job referral services at your alma mater, contact area pediatric dentists to ask about openings and ask your personal dentist for leads, too.