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Dental Assistant Careers

Sep 30, 2010

If you think you might like the dentistry field for your career, becoming a dental assistant is a great way to get some exposure without having to go to school for eight years to find out if it is the career match for you.

Not everyone is right for the position of dental assistant. Good candidates for this type of career will:

  • Be dependable for showing up to work and to take care of the duties they are responsible for without having to be supervised.
  • Get along well with the people they work with, as well as those that are their patients.
  • Have the manual dexterity to handle the tools and pass them to the dentist in a neat and timely manner.

In general, all dental assistants will be required to perform some similar basic duties that include:

  • Making patients comfortable in the dental chair prior to their treatment.
  • Hand tools to the dentist throughout the treatment while also using the suction and rinsing equipment to clear the patient’s mouth from debris.
  • Keeping the instruments and all of the dental equipment sterilized before setting it up for use by the dentist.
  • Informing patients of post-treatment care.
  • Placing devices into the patient's mouth such as rubber dams which are used to isolate a tooth during a specific treatment.

If qualified and required, the tasks include taking dental X-rays and/or mixing materials that are used for fillings, bonding, or for taking mold impressions. Depending on your state, you may be required to have additional education or certification for some of these duties.

In addition to these, the dental assistant may be required to perform other laboratory duties such as preparing temporary crowns or office duties such as taking care of billing or scheduling appointments.

Dental assistant careers pay in the vicinity of $30,000 a year, a far cry from what you would expect to earn as a dentist. However, even if you choose to take a course in dental assisting and are licensed or registered, you will normally have to invest no more than one year into your education before you are ready to go to work!

Good reasons to become a dental assistant

During the past several years, many people have come to realize that job security is a valuable commodity. This is one reason that becoming a dental assistant is a good move right now. There will never be a decline in the demand for professionals in this field. In fact, this is expected to be the fastest growing job field until the year 2018 of all those that can be attained by on-the-job training or a minimal amount of education.

Another significant advantage to dental assistant careers is that you aren’t limited to specific regions. Your chances of finding employment are good no matter where you move to depending on the requirements of the state and the certification and education you have obtained.

While you don’t have much opportunity to advance from a dental assistant position, some people do go back to school to become dentists or dental hygienists. Just keep in mind that any advancement will require you to add to your education.

To find out what steps you need to take to pursue a career as a dental assistant, call your local technical, junior, or community college and see what kinds of courses are available. You may find here your course as well. Some of them offer one year programs while others may have two-year associate degree programs. Once you know what your investment will be, you can decide if this is the career path you want to take!

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