Dental Assistant

Dental Assistant Degree Programs

Start a Career in one of today's fastest growing healthcare fields


dental-assistingDental Assistants play a vital role in the success of dental practices, and there are plenty of things about starting a career as a dental assistant to smile about! People are better educated about about the role dental health plays in their overall health, so they're taking better care of their teeth these days. Folks are also living longer and they prefer to keep their natural teeth as long as possible. Add to that the growing demand for dental implants and cosmetic dental procedures such a teeth whitening and it's little wonder that demand for more and better educated dental assistants is exploding.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistant employment opportunities are expected to grow by 36 percent through 2018, which is much faster than average for all occupations. If you're looking for a career that offers outstanding employment prospects, excellent working conditions, good pay, decent hours, stability, and opportunities for advancement then becoming a dental assistant might be just what you've been looking for.

What Does A Dental Assistant Do?

The duties of a dental assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. In addition to ensuring that the dental office and chairside procedures function smoothly, the dental assistant is often the one who interacts the most with patients and helps calm their fear of procedures and put them at ease. Because they carry many responsibilities, today's busy dental practices want their dental assistants to have solid educational preparation for the job, be knowledge about common dental procedures, and be able communicate well with patients.

Dental Assistant Role In Dental Practice

A dental assistant's role is to provide assistance to a dentist or oral hygienist in all kinds of dental procedures, many of which are quite sensitive and complex. One of the most important responsibilities of dental assistants is preparing the instruments a dentist is going to use before a procedure. These responsibilities include sterilizing each instrument and efficiently laying them out on the instrument tray. This makes it much easier for the dentist to perform the procedure on a patient without wasting precious time searching for the needed instruments.

During a dental procedure, the dental assistant is in charge of various tasks such as handing dental instruments to the dentist or hygienist and keeping the patient's mouth dry through suctioning. She also plays a huge role in making patients relaxed and comfortable. In case a patient is nervous about the procedure, the dental assistant provides reassurance and answers whatever questions the patient may have.

When the procedure is over, it is the dental assistant who explains to the patient what to do to facilitate faster recovery and proper healing. She may also call in the prescriptions for the patient, although this is more of a courtesy than an obligation. After patients leave the clinic, the dental assistant is responsible for making follow-up phone calls to make sure their recovery is going properly, especially if they have gone through particularly sensitive procedures.

Dental Assistant Duties May Also Include

  • Chart the patient's medical history and take blood pressure and pulse
  • Taking and developing dental x-rays
  • Taking impressions of patients' teeth for study casts (models of teeth)
  • Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies
  • Develope infection control protocol and preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment
  • Communicating with patients and suppliers (scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, billing and ordering supplies)

What Education Does A Dental Assistant Need?

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, dental assistant training consisted of little more than on the job training in rudimentary tasks in a dental office, but scientific advances and the growing demand for more advanced dental services has led to a need for well educated and knowledgable assistants who could assume responsibility for more complex duties than ever before. Today's successful Dental Assistant applicant needs to graduate from a Dental Assisting diploma program, or have a college degree from an accredited Dental Assistant program.

The ADA reports that there are approximately 270 ADA accredited dental assisting education programs in the U.S. taking between 12 to 24 months to complete with curriculum that covers all aspects of dental assisting including office procedures and software, dental x-ray techniques, clinical procedures, and basic health practices.

Additionally, earning an associate degree in dental assisting opens the door to promotions, increased pay, the ability to become certified, as well as the option to pursue advanced education to become a Dental Hygienist or a Dentist. In fact, the best dentist I ever had started his career as a dental assistant and discovered that he liked it so much that he wanted to be able to do more, so he went on to dental school.

How Much Do Dental Assistants Earn?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor the median annual wage for dental assistants was $35,980 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $50,660. Most dental assistants work full time. However, nearly 1 in 3 assistants worked part time in 2014. Some may work evenings or weekends.

Specializing in a field such as endodontics, oral surgery, or periodontics increases the potential for dental assistant salaries. Having x-ray certification also increases a dental assistant salary, as does being familiar with software applications, having CPR certification, earning professional certification, or being bilingual. Salaries vary geographically, with the size of the dental practice, and upon the education, credentials, and experience of the Dental Assistant.

Earning a Dental Assistant degree can help you advance in your current career and also help ensure excellent long-term employment opportinities!

Find Dental Assistant Programs Near You
Explore detailed listings of accredited schools that offer Dental Assistant degrees or Dental Assisting training programs to find the Dental Assistant program that best meets your needs. Get started today by selecting the schools that interest you and fill out the brief information request form to speak directly with Dental Assistant program advisers.