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Dental Assistant Jobs Guide

Dec 04, 2008

A dental assistant is an important member of the dental care team, and you can become one in a relatively short amount of time.

Where do dental assistants work?

There are a number of different areas where dental assistant jobs exist, offering some flexibility for the type of work you want to do. Some of these are:

  • In a regular dental office where there is one practicing dentist.
  • In a group practice where there may be two or multiple dentists.
  • Specialty offices. These include oral surgeons, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, pediatric, and more.
  • Public healthcare offices which may operate in health clinics, schools, or other community facilities that offer dental care to the community at a reduced cost.
  • Hospitals or nursing homes where a dental department performs needed treatments to patients or where you will work to assist dental students in their education who are students in the dental clinic.

What does a dental assistant do?

A dental assistant is an important member of the dental care team. The dental assistant offers an extra pair of hands to the dentist so that he can focus on performing various procedures on the patient. She prepares the tools by sterilizing and laying out on the trays and then hands the dentist the tools he needs and takes the ones he no longer needs to get them out of his way.

The dental assistant also uses the rinse and suction while on the patient while the dentist is working. Taking x-rays, keeping patient records up-to-date, and mixing materials for applications may also be part of her responsibilities.

What kind of training does a dental assistant need?

One of the most attractive features of becoming a dental assistant is the relatively short amount of time that is required to complete your training. You can take a program through a community college, vocational or technical school, college, or a dental school. Most of these programs are designed to prepare you for taking an exam to become certified.

In order to qualify for certification, the school you attend must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation or else you must have two years of on-the-job training or work experience as a dental assistant. There are many fewer dental assistant jobs available today that offer on-the-job training with most dentists preferring to hire employees who are already skilled and don't require months of training. There are also requirements that vary state to state so you may be required to have additional training along with the certification depending on where you live.

What are the benefits of being a dental assistant?

The dental assistant has the most diverse job on the dental assistant team. This also makes it one of the most interesting jobs you can have in the dental field. The demand for dental assistants is high and expected to grow during the next ten years. Since there are so many available jobs, they offer more flexibility about where you can work and whether you take a part-time or full-time position. Most of the offices where you can work will have a pleasant, interesting atmosphere. Overall, most dental assistant jobs are satisfying because they provide you with the opportunity to make a difference and provide care for others.

What type of person is right for the dental assistant field?

If you have a problem with odors, saliva or blood, this isn't the right job for you. You also need to be neat, organized, dependable and willing to do any number of tasks that are required of you. Since you are going to be responsible for putting patients at ease, you need to get along well with others and be able to work with a team. The dental assistant is an important part of every dental office and should always be willing to do everything possible to provide the patients with the care they need.

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