Becoming a dental assistant can prove to be a very rewarding career option. At present, there is a huge demand for dental assistants both in the United States and in other countries. This could only mean fat pay checks. According to Salary.com, a competent and qualified dental assistant can easily earn a salary of anywhere between $25,500 and $39,000 annually. The national average median salary for dental assistants is $33,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the lowest 10 percent in this profession earns just below $22,270, while the top 10 percent rakes in over $46,000 annually. Now that is some serious cash. Apart from the fat pay checks, the additional benefits that are part of this profession (such as social security benefits) are also a plus. According to a survey by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), 86 percent of all Certified Dental Assistants (CDAs) get paid vacation time and over half receive health care benefits.
If all these dollar signs have mesmerized you, you better snap out of it and look for a good dental assistant training program and enroll for it. In this article we will talk about the various options and career paths available for people who want to enroll for a dental assistant training program.
Dental Assistant Training: Nature of the Work and Job Prospects
As a dental assistant, you can choose from three career paths, the first involving work in the office portion of the dental practice, the second involving lab work, and third is where you directly assist the dentist while he performs procedures on patients. Your dental assistant training program will train you in the specifics of all three options. Your duties, depending on your career path, may vary from disinfecting and sterilizing equipment, obtaining and updating patients’ dental records, processing X rays, preparing casts of teeth, assisting dentists by applying topical anesthetics, removing sutures, etc.
As for future job prospects, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this field are set to grow by about 36 percent during the 2008-2018 decade. This growth rate is significantly higher than the national average growth rate of 10 percent in other fields.
Dental Assistant Training: Typical Training Courses
Dental assistants usually learn through on on-the-job training. However, a growing crop of dental assistants are trained through dental assistant training programs being offered by junior and community colleges, technical institutes and trade schools. Generally, these dental assistant training programs take about a year to be completed. Here is a list of typical dental assistant training courses.
- Oral Anatomy Course: This program provides an anatomical review of the human head and the oral cavity. Trainees learn about soft and hard facial tissues, growth patterns of teeth and explore drugs used in dentistry.
- Dental Radiology Course: Students here focus on the procedures and techniques involved in dental radiology. They learn to operate radiographic equipment and learn about safety practices to protect patients and operators from exposure to radiation. Mounting, processing and assessment of digital X rays is also covered.
- Dental Materials Course: This program focuses on the various materials used in dental procedures. Individuals learn about the chemical and physical properties of these dental materials. They also learn how to prepare casts and take tooth impressions.
- Dental Office Procedure Course: Students here learn about various office procedures, such as telephone etiquette, file management and appointment scheduling. Topics such as inventory control, basic bookkeeping, payroll, dental insurance plans and dental office management software are also covered.
Apart from the above dental assistant training programs, trade schools, community colleges and technical institutes also offer training courses in nutrition and oral hygiene and infection control. Decide which aspect you are interested in and choose the dental assistant training program accordingly.