Are you interested in dentistry and passionate about helping people? Then a dental assistant career could be for you. Dental assistants work in dental offices under the supervision of dentists. They have excellent interpersonal, organizational and listening skills.
Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care and administrative duties. They take x-rays, schedule patient appointments and assist dentists during dental procedures. They’re different, however from dental hygienists. The biggest difference between the two is that dental hygienists have less supervision and work more frequently with patients.
For those curious about dentistry and eager to gain practical experience, becoming a dental assistant is a great place to start. This guide covers the following topics as they relate to dental assistant careers:
- Job outlook
- Necessary skills
- Licensure and certification
- What to look for in education programs
- Jobs and relevant organizations
Why Become a Dental Assistant in California?
The job outlook for dental assistants is bright.1
Employment of dental assistants is related to the need for dental care. The BLS notes two possible causes increasing the demand for dental care and preventative services. The first is continued research tying oral and general health together. The second has to do with the baby boomer population; as they age and keep their original teeth, the need for dental care increases. As the need for dental care and practices grows, dentists will need to hire more dental assistants to work efficiently.
Becoming a dental assistant can also lead to additional career opportunities. If you want to further your dental career and continue working with patients, you can work toward a career as a dental hygienist or dentist.
Dental assistants are critical members of dental care teams and enjoy many career benefits. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) notes the following advantages of dental assistant careers:2
- Variety: Dental assistants must be versatile and willing to take on different tasks.
- Flexibility: Dental assistants enjoy the career flexibility of being able to pursue full- or part-time positions.
- Superior working conditions: As a dental assistant, you’ll work in a clean, pleasant, people-oriented environment.
- Personal satisfaction: Dental assistants can gain personal satisfaction from helping patients through their one-on-one interactions.
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Dental assistants provide patient care and support dentists through a variety of tasks. Their duties vary by job but typically include:3
- Help patients feel comfortable for their dental appointment
- Prep patients and the dental work area
- Clean dental instruments and provide them to dentists during procedures
- Educate patients regarding oral hygiene best practices
- Take x-rays and accomplish lab tasks, under dentist supervision
- Maintain dental records
- Schedule appointments
- Assist patients with billing and payment
During a procedure, a dental assistant helps dentists by passing equipment like suction hoses, syringes, probes, matrix bands, etc. While dental assistants are highly involved in the preparation and execution of dental procedures, they cannot actually perform dental procedures; that is the role of the dentist.