Does becoming a dental assistant interest you? Dental assistants often have characteristics that include comfort working with their hands, strong communication skills, and attention to detail. The specific duties of dental assistants are varied and involve clinical and clerical tasks. If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, read on to learn more about working in the dental field.
The requirements to become a dental assistant vary by state. In many cases, you need to graduate from an accredited dental assistant training program, such as the Dental Assisting Program at Delta Technical College, and/or pass a licensing or certification exam. However, in some cases dental assistants without formal education start with on-the-job training.
Each state has different requirements for the education of dental assistants. Furthermore, requirements can vary based on the type of dental assistance that is being offered. For example, in Mississippi, to legally operate dental x-ray equipment, you must either take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, complete a board-approved seminar and exam, or attend an accredited program such as the Dental Assisting Program at DTC. However, for most other tasks in Mississippi, the only technical requirement is CPR certification.
Some states require training, others CDA certification, and others both. Regardless, the 9-month program at DTC will prepare you for a wide variety of career opportunities. Learn more about dental assisting requirements in different states here.
Delta Technical College’s Dental Assisting Program is 9 months.
Students at Delta Technical College are trained in both clinical and administrative duties, including infection control, restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, dental radiology, office administration, dental specialties, and employment preparation.
DTC students are also provided with a yearlong membership to the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA).
DTC’s Dental Assisting Program in Mississippi is taught by instructors with years of experience in the field, who will teach you valuable skills through both hands-on lab and classroom instruction. The Dental Assisting Program ends with Externship, where you’ll take the skills you’ve been taught in the lab and apply them in-the-field at a dental office sitting side-by-side with a dentist.
A dental assistant is important to the successful flow of work at a dentist’s office because their role often includes administrative and clinical responsibilities. These tasks can include electronic record keeping, keyboarding, billing, coding, insurance claims, scheduling, and acting as a patient liaison and educator on behalf of the dental practice .
They must also have clinical skills, including assisting the dentist during exams, x-rays, lab work, sterilizing instruments, and performing basic four-handed dentistry, among many other daily tasks.
To learn more, check out Pros & Cons of Being a Dental Assistant.
A high school diploma or GED is required to become a dental assistant. Beyond that, some states require dental assistants to complete an accredited program. To see the requirements for each state, visit the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) website.
In Mississippi, dental assistants must be CPR-certified. While there aren’t any other education requirements, completing a dental assisting program could significantly improve your chances of securing employment.
For dental assistant certification at Delta Technical College, dental assisting students at the Ridgeland, MS campus are required to take two of the three DANB certification exams: RHS (Radiology Health & Safety) and ICE (Infection Control Exam).
The median annual wage for Dental Assistants was $44,820 in May 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Annual wages typically depend on several factors including your location.
As the population continues to live longer and there are advancements in treatments, prevention, procedures, and cosmetic/aesthetic dentistry, the dental profession will continue to evolve and grow. The BLS predicts the job outlook for Dental Assistants will increase by 7% from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than average (3%). This equates to about 55,100 openings for dental assistants each year, on average, over the decade.
The Dental Assisting Program at Delta Technical College (DTC) prepares you for entry-level positions in a dentist’s office, which is the most common employer of dental assistants, according to the BLS. Dental assistants may also work at hospitals or on military bases. Job titles can include clinical dental assistant, dental laboratory assistant, or dental office administrative assistant.
Some dental assistants choose to specialize by working with oral surgeons or in geriatric and pediatric specialties, but the scope of practice for a dental assistant varies by state. For example, some states allow dental assistants to polish teeth or apply sealants, fluoride, or topical anesthetic, while other states may require additional training or certifications.
In short, dental assistants provide aid to the dentists during routine procedures while dental hygienists work directly with the clients, providing more in-depth cleanings and examinations with little-to-no supervision.
Tasks a dental assistant might perform include taking x-rays, preparing patients for procedures, making dental impressions and aiding with suctioning and rinsing. Other duties include dental administration and organization.
Dental hygienists, on the other hand, are more likely to perform routine cleanings, examine patients for oral cancer, perform gum treatments and instruct patients on healthy tooth care. Hygienists also refer patients to other specialists for certain types of procedures.
Another major difference is that dental hygienists require much more formal education, with a minimum of an associate degree to practice.
To learn more, check out Dental Hygienist vs Dental Assistant: Exploring the Differences.
The differences between registered dental assistants (RDA) and certified dental assistants (CDA) are the levels of certifications and tests they are required to take. This often varies by state.
The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) issues certifications for dental assistants, such as the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam. A CDA is usually certified to work in any state, but it’s important to verify with a potential employer.
American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers a credential called Registered Dental Assistant (RDA).
Most dental assistants will take x-rays as a part of their job in a dentist’s office, which may be learned from dental assistant programs that teach radiology as part of dental assistant coursework. In some states, the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) assessment is recognized or required for dental assistants. This assessment will ensure that a dental assistant understands the necessary skills to take x-rays. DTC also offers a continuing education option in dental radiology.
The Dental Assisting Program at Delta Technical College (DTC) teaches students to take x-rays – additional education is not required to sit for exam from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
Dental assistants who work with oral surgeons may have opportunities to assist during procedures. During oral surgery, dental assistants may help prepare work stations, sterilize instruments and educate patients about post-operative care.
A dental assistant in the Army is called a dental specialist. In the Air Force and Navy they are referred to as dental assistants. Typically, training to become a dental assistant will take an additional 8 weeks after a recruit completes 8-10 weeks of basic training in the military. This will vary among branches of the military.
The skills learned in Advanced Individual Training may include preventative dentistry, dental office procedures, x-ray techniques, dental hygiene procedures. The job duties of a dental specialist in the military are not usually different from those duties in the civilian world, including assisting the dentist and office tasks.
There are questions related to background information on various forms required by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). These questions must be answered and there could be follow up if the answer indicates past criminal behavior. Policies may vary from state to state, but 39 states recognize or require DANB certification. Although background checks may be a part of the hiring process, it is up to the employer.
Start Your New Career as a Dental Assistant with Hands-On Training at DTC