A Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant

January 4th, 2012

With our population ever increasing and people living longer and longer, careers in the field of healthcare services are becoming ever more in demand. The role of dental assistant is just one of the many in-demand jobs currently available, and projected to continue growing.

Many Americans are taking the initiative to enroll in dental assistant training now, before the big boom in demand hits as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

A dental assistant job can be an immensely rewarding and fulfilling career path. A registered dental assistant gets to work with and help others and a dental assistant salary can also be very competitive.

What is a Dental Assistant?

You may be asking yourself what is a dental assistant? A dental assistant is someone who assists dentists throughout their work day. Their workload is usually comprised of a combination of laboratory, office and patient care duties. Dental assistants job descriptions can vary from place to place, but it usually mainly consists of dividing their time between aiding patients and the dentists themselves.

Here’s a Look at a Dental Assistant’s Typical Day

A typical day as a dental assistant will usually begin with you arriving 30-45 minutes before the first patients show up at the office, so that you can prepare the office for their arrival. You will make sure that all files, x-rays, records, dentist equipment and charts are in order and ready for the dentist to use.  Then you will show your first patient into the dentists office and inform the dentist that his or her patient is ready to see them.

During a patient’s appointment, your dental assistant duties usually consist of rinsing the patients mouth, passing dentist tools to the dentist and assisting the dentist in any other procedures he or she may need help with. You will also take notes on the patient’s chart and, in-between appointments, you will be expected to clean and prepare the room for the next patient.

A day as a dentist assistant is always dynamic, can be hectic, and you will likely get little time to spare to sit down or take much of a break. However, many dental assistants say this is what they love about being a dental assistant- the work environment is always lively and the diversity of the patients and their needs makes it fun and keeps things fresh, rather than being boring!

Common Dental Assistant duties include:

  • Disinfecting and Sterilizing Dentist Instruments
  • Welcoming patients into the dentist’s office
  • Handing to the dentist instruments and other medical devices
  • Cleaning the dentists mouth often using suction hoses
  • Making impressions and casts of patients teeth
  • Taking X-rays
  • Organizing and scheduling patients appointments

How Do I Become a Dental Assistant?

If you are wondering how to become a dental assistant you will want to start with becoming a certified dental assistant. You can achieve this status by completing medical assistant associate degrees at junior or community colleges or at a career college. There aren’t many dental assistant online programs because much of the training requires hands-on activity, but there is lots of information online regarding where to go and find dental assistant schools.

You can usually become a dental assistant within one to two years depending on which type of school and dental assistant program you decide to enroll in. Some dental assistants choose not to attend school but instead learn on the job, but it can be harder to find your initial first job as a dental assistant this way and it also has the potential to decrease your chance of earning the same amounts as those that went to school.

How Much Do Dental Assistants Make?

Dental assistant salaries vary from state to state and level of education and qualifications can also affect the salary of  dental assistant. As a general rule, someone who has dental assistant certification will earn significantly more than someone who is simply learning on the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2010 the bottom 10% of dental assistants in America earn $22,680 where as the top 10% earn $47,090.

So if you love working with people and have an interest in dental care, becoming a certified dental assistant may be a great career choice for you!

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