Dental Assisting Careers: What You Need To Know

Whether you're thinking about a career change or you've just finished high school, dental assisting is a career with room to grow. Between the years 2014 and 2024 jobs in dental assisting are projected to grow at a much faster than average rate of 18%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This means that there could be an additional 58,600 jobs added to the field by 2024.

If becoming a dental assistant is something that you're considering, take a look at what you need to know before making any decisions:

Training Turnaround Time

Unlike some other professions (such as nursing or teaching), becoming a dental assistant doesn't require a four-year degree. What does this mean for you? It means that you can train to become a professional and start working in less time than you would if you chose another career track.

Even though you won't need a bachelor's degree to become a dental assistant, you do need some formal training. Dental assisting programs are post-secondary (after high school) degrees that many people complete in two years or less. Typically, these consist of both classroom education and hands-on training.

On the Job

Some dental assistants also receive on-the-job training. This may, or may not be, in addition to formal classroom-based programs. Training under a senior dental assistant or hygienist can provide you with real-world experiences and increase your comfort level working with patients.

Skills and Duties

So what does the dental assistant really do? Don't be fooled by the word "assistant" in the title. Even though you won't be in charge, you will become a valuable member of the dental care team. Without assistance, most dental practices wouldn't run smoothly.

Dental assistants have a variety of different job duties, ranging from administrative to clinical/patient care. Administrative job duties may include answering the office phone, scheduling appointments, greeting patients, taking patients' insurance information, help the patients to fill out forms and keeping records. The clinical side of the job includes sterilizing dental instruments, working side-by-side with the dentist or hygienist (handing them instruments, taking notes as needed), providing patients with dental education (the proper way to brush or floss) and using simple dental instruments such as suction hoses during procedures and exams.

If you're seriously thinking about a career in dental assisting, the time to start is now. The quicker you get into an educational/skills training program, the sooner you can become part of the dental health workforce. 

Contact a company like New Mexico Institute of Dental Assisting for more information and assistance.