If you live in the developed world, you have probably been to the dentist within the last year. (If you have not, stop reading right now and make an appointment. You should take your oral health seriously.) While you saw your dentist at the very end of your last appointment, the person working on you for most of the time was a dental assistant. These smiling people seem to have no problems at all, happily chatting and working on your teeth. Have you ever wondered how you get that life? Below we have outlined the benefits of becoming a registered dental assistant.
What Is A Dental Assistant?
Turns out, dental assistants are ranked among the top 25 fastest growing occupations in the country. Why? Because of their flexible schedule, work life balance and income. Need we say more?
Sounds great, but you are probably wondering what exactly is a dental assistant.
The responsibilities of dental assistants can vary depending on the state you are in, but most involve a variety of office work, patient care and laboratory duties. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the main duties of a dental assistant are:
In addition to working hand-in-hand with a dentist, there are a number of other avenues a dental assistant can take in their career. Some will choose to rise up in their dental practice and become the manager, taking care of the day-to-day operations of the place and managing the front office staff. Others will decide to go into the education sector and focus on helping others embark on their own dental assistant careers. Some may even choose to leave the industry and go to work in dental product sales. Who knows more about selling dental equipment than those who used to use it?
What Schooling Or Training Is Required?
Now that we have gone over the basics of what a dental assistant does, it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of how you can become one yourself. While some may be able to complete on-the-job training, getting your certificate through a formal dental assisting program is the best way to go.
In order to do this you will need to find a program that is accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Attending a CODA-accredited program ensures that you have the professional and ethical standards necessary to meet their rigorous guidelines. While this step is not required, it will set you apart from others in the field. We recommend going above and beyond to attend a CODA-accredited training program if you are serious about this job becoming a career.
According to the American Dental Association, there are 270 CODA-accredited dental assisting programs in the United States. This number will continue to grow. You can find more information about a program near you on their website.
There are three paths you can take to earn the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)’s National Entry Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification. These include:
There are also vocational programs that are offered at most community colleges and career centers that will provide you with the qualifications needed to work in the field. Most of these programs are not CODA-accredited, so they do not fulfill all the requirements. Additional training may be needed with these programs, but they are a good way to start the process. We recommend this path if you are unsure of this career and want to take some classes to figure it out.
While other degree programs can take two or four years to compete, dental assistant training typically takes less than one. This is helpful if you are trying to go back to school while supporting or family or simply do not have the years to invest in further education. For most programs, all you need is a high school degree or GED to enroll.
Benefits Of Becoming A Registered
Now that you know what goes into landing the job of a registered dental assistant, you probably want to know why you should seriously consider this job as a career. Sit back while we explain why.
According to the Dental Assisting National Board, full-time, certified dental assistants earn an average salary of $20.46 per hour. That is $2 more per hour than non-certified dental assistants and significantly more than the national average of careers that do not require a bachelor’s degree. In addition to salary, most dental assistants also receive paid vacations, 401(k) or pension plans and paid sick leave. And the best benefit of all? Free dental care! Have you ever paid for a crown? Dental work can really add up.
In addition to monetary benefits, registered dental assistants report high levels of career satisfaction. A survey sound that nearly 99 percent of those surveyed planned to renew their certificate.
Working as a dental assistant means you will work around your office’s schedule. Most offices operate during normal business hours – Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. While some offices stay open later or are open on the weekends to meet the needs of their patients, this is certainly not the norm.
This regular schedule can help if you have a family or other commitments outside of work.
Each day in a busy dental practice is different. While you may complete similar tasks on the day to day, you will be doing so with different people. Dental assistants can go from working at the front desk in the first part of the day to assisting with oral surgery to close it out. Being busy helps the day go by quickly and makes you feel like you accomplished more.
Unlike working in an office, which has you dealing with the same cast of characters day in and day out, dental assistants are able to work with a variety of patients. Since dental patients require annual or semi-annual cleanings, you will soon be able to build a rapport with your repeat patients. You can look forward to creating this ongoing connection with members of your community. If you live in a small town, chances are you will see your patients out and about, which is always nice.
As discussed above, dental assistants have the option to move beyond the office. There are a number of career paths a registered dental assistant can take. They can move up in their current company to a managerial role. They can choose to educate others by working at a community college or university. Dental product companies are always hiring dental assistants out of the office to work as a sales reps because of their vast dental knowledge.
While there is always a chance your first job as a registered dental assistant will be part-time, most of these positions are full time. Few of these full-time positions require evening or weekend shifts. That being said, it all depends on the office where you work.
Comfortable Working Conditions
Being at the dentist’s office is stressful for patients. The fear of the unknown may be a contributing factor. Because of this, office managers work hard to create a relaxing and comfortable environment. The comforts from this are passed on to the employees. The office must be clean and well-lit in order to follow the American Dental Association guidelines. In addition, the non-medical staff in the office are trained to be polite and courteous to patients, both in person and over the phone. This means that your coworkers will be drama free, at least in front of the patients. But hey, drama free coworkers half the time is better than drama-filled ones for 40 hours a week.
The field of dental assistants is expanding. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the field of dental assisting will grow by 31 percent between 2010 and 2020. This means you will have your choice of places to work and positions to take. You will have options. And who doesn’t love options?
As you can see, there are many benefits to taking the plunge and becoming a registered dental assistant. All you need is the drive to actually do it.
Many of these programs have quarterly open houses, which let you visit the school and meet with current students and staff members. You will be able to ask any questions you may have, which can help alleviate any concerns you still have about switching your career to work in the dental field. If you have the slightest interest in making a change in your life and becoming a registered dental assistant, now is the time to do something about.