in a dentist's office, the assisting staff is as important to the administering of oral healthcare as the dentist himself. dental assistants are responsible for making appointments and maintaining records of the patient's health progress. they also ensure that the workplace meets all hygiene standards. if you are interested in making an entry into the dental career, read on to find out how to become a dental assistant.
what personality traits are needed to become a dental assistant?
before you can dive headfirst into a career as an assistant, you should ask yourself if you possess the necessary personality traits needed to excel in this career. the profession you are interested in requires detail oriented and highly organized individuals. this is because a large part of the job requires handling patient records, and following highly rigid professional protocols. another asset is having good interpersonal skills because you will be dealing with people from various backgrounds on a daily basis. being sensitive and compassionate in dealing with patients can help you gain their trust.
what training do i need?
the training you need will vary depending on the state you wish to work in. some states require you to enroll in formal training programs and pass a state licensing exam before authorizing you to practice professionally; other states are less strict in their requirements. however, having formal training is generally recommended, since it helps you gain more secure and higher paying jobs. most programs are offered by technical institutes and last for a year, whereas some are offered by a community college and can lead to an associate's degree over a two year period. the topics covered mostly involve courses in biology and chemistry, with an added emphasis on dental hygiene and dental practices. some states may require you to obtain certification from an official board. while this is not required in all states, it adds greater credibility to your portfolio. graduates of accredited programs are eligible to take this test, administered by the dental assisting national board.
work environment and job outlook
according to the us bureau of labor statistics, the growth of this profession is estimated to be at 31% between 2010 and 2020, which is much higher than average. with improvements in oral technology, the need for a competent assistant staff is expected to rise. the top 10 percent of individuals in this profession were reported to be making over $47,000 annually, while the median pay was reported as $33,470 in may 2010. these numbers will vary depending on your location, employer, and experience. most dental assistants will work under the supervision of a dentist, and some will work closely with a dental hygienist as well. due to the nature of the job, it is required that all dental assistants wear safety masks and gloves when dealing with patients. while most dental assistants work full time jobs, about 2 in 5 were also working part time. before learning how to become a dental assistant, it is a good idea to evaluate how much time you can commit.