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Dental Assistant Schools and Training Programs

Are you looking for a career in the healthcare industry? Would you prefer to work in a healthier environment? Do you like the idea of regular working hours during the days, and/or part-time work? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you might want to consider working as a dental assistant.

Dental Assistant Careers

Dental assisting is a field that many find rewarding and fun. Dental assistants generally help a dentist throughout the course of a procedure. This often includes setting out the proper tools, helping clear the saliva out of a certain area of the mouth, taking x-rays, etc. In some dental offices, the dental assistant may also be responsible for greeting patients, scheduling appointments, and completing insurance forms.

Dental assisting is a great job for those who want to work normal hours or part time. Many mothers work as dental assistants part time during the day while their children are at school. The work environment in a dental office is generally very clean and upbeat. Dentists don’t see as many truly sick people as doctors, meaning that the risk of disease for a dental assistant is much less than for a nurse or medical lab technician.

Dental Assistant Training and Educational Requirements

Many of those who ultimately want to be chairside assistants spend some time training in dental assisting programs. These associate degree or certificate programs allow students to hone their skills before they actually get into the dentist’s office. Dentists like to hire assistants that have been trained at a reputable school, because it helps them save time and money.

Education for Dental Assistants

The American Dental Association (ADA) accredits 265 dental assisting programs around the country. These programs are offered by technical institutes, community and junior colleges or trade schools and generally last a year or less. To apply you’ll need a high school diploma or its equivalent. Science or computer-related experience is also helpful.

Dental assistant programs offer you solid educational training as well as practical hands-on experience in clinics or dental offices. Practical experience is emphasized, with a significant amount of hands-on training, to make sure you are ready to begin work with confidence and the skills you need.

Dental Assistant Certification

Most states regulate the tasks that dental assistants can do through licensure or registration. The requirements for dental assistant registration vary state to state but likely will mean passing a written or practical exam.

Recognized in more than 30 states, certification offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) meets standards required for chairside assistants to perform more complex duties like taking patient x-rays. To qualify for DANB certification you must have graduated from an American Dental Association (ADA) accredited program or meet specific on-the-job experience requirements.

Employment Outlook for Dental Assistants

Dental assistants or chairside assistants, as they are sometimes known, are expected to enjoy outstanding job prospects in coming years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2010). With 36 percent projected employment growth from 2008 to 2018, dental assistants are expected to be among the fastest growing occupations in that period.

Dental Assistant Salary Potential

According to the bls.gov, the average hourly wage of a dental assistant was about $16.41 in 2010. Upper-tier dental assistants, who typically have more experience and education, made about $20 per hour. The average annual salary was $34,140 in 2010. And of course, the vast majority of dental assistants receive dental coverage, which is a major plus.

A Future in Dental Assisting

In an era when there's tremendous pressure to have the perfect smile, people are taking dental hygiene more seriously than ever before. If you have completed the requisite training at a recognized vocational school or community college, you can pursue an entry-level position in this medical field.

Additional Resources for Individuals Looking to Enroll in Dental Assisting Programs:
American Dental Assistant Association
Dental Assisting National Board

Campus and Online Dental Assistant Schools

 
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