What should you expect in dental assistant school? What do dental assistant do? Do dental assistants and dental hygienists perform the same job? A dental assistant is not the same as a dental hygienist. A dental assistant provides varies kinds of patient care, and complete office and laboratory duties. They do not perform the same tasks that dental hygienists are licensed to perform. A dental assistants main tasks are to work in the front of a dental office organizing patient records. They also work alongside the dentist, assisting in the dentist, patient, or dental hygienist.
Dental Assisting Education and Training
Many dental assistants learn their skills on the job, but a majority are trained in dental assistant programs that take up around two years to complete. A high school diploma or GED is however required for admission to dental assistant school.
Dental assistant education requirements may include medical and health focused courses that include anatomy and physiology, first aid, CPR and vital signs, and medical terminology. Specific dental assistant courses might consist of:
- Oral anatomy
- Oral pathology
- Preventive dentistry and nutrition
- Chair side techniques
- Clinical Rotations (Practicum)
Students learn the numbers of all teeth, anatomy of the jaw and bone structure, muscular system and nerves and arteries in the neck and head. Dental assisting students also take business and office management course like typing, data entry, record keeping, accounting, and front office skills. Additionally, dentist receptionist courses and training may be provided.
Accredited medical assisting programs provide their students with practical internship experience in dental schools and offices and can last from a number of months to two years. Dental assistants can choose to be certified by taking and passing a state exam.
Dental Assistant Careers
Careers in dental assisting are available in the offices of dentists, oral surgeons, physicians, chiropractors, and orthodontists, as well as hospitals, and medical clinics. This is both in inpatient and outpatient care facilities. Upon graduating from dental assistant school, dental professionals are tasked with the following:
- Helping the dentists by providing patient care
- Engaging in office and laboratory responsibilities
- Working chair side as dentists examine and treat patients
- Preparing equipment and materials for impressions and restorations
- Taking and processing x-rays
- Preparing patients for treatment
- Obtaining, checking, and verifying dental records
- Providing instruments and materials to dentists
- Sterilizing and disinfecting dental equipment and instruments
During dental patient visits, they prepare x-rays, sterilize and provide dental tools for dentists. In addition, they prepare patient for the dentist and instruct the on oral health care. A dental hygienist focuses on preventive dental care. They take x-rays, examine patients’ teeth and gum, remove plaque and deposits from teeth, apply fluoride, and examine patients for mouth and gum disease. Dental hygienists are licensed to perform more advanced clinical procedures.
Estimated Income and Projected Career Outlook
The job outlook for dental assistants is positive over the next decade and a dental assistant career is expected to be among the fastest growing in the health care industry as estimated by United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most dental assistants earn an hourly rate.
Upon graduating from dental assistant school many earn around $10.81 and $14.54 an hour. For 2010, the median annual wage of dental assistants was $33,470 with a range between $22,680, and $47,090. The employment of dental assistants is expected to grow by 31% from 2010 to 2020 (BLS).