What do dental assistants do? This seems a fair question, as many people are investigating this career path. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for dental assistants will grow 11% between 2020 and 2030, a higher average rate than for all other occupations. This means an average of 44,000 new dental assistants are needed each year.

Are you interested in becoming a dental assistant? Launching this career takes more than training and certifications. Dental assisting skills require organization, dexterity, attention to detail, professionalism and high-level people skills. Many so-called “soft skills” are just as important as professional training. Do you think you have what it takes?

Dental Assistant Job Description – What Do Dentist Assistants Do?

Dental assistants perform many tasks to aid the dentist and other team members in the office. Although primarily engaged in assisting with patient care, they may also be asked to perform numerous other tasks to help the entire organization run smoothly. Their essential duties can include:

  • Making patients comfortable in the dental chair
  • Preparing the work area for procedures
  • Helping patients prepare for treatments
  • Sterilizing dental instruments
  • Assisting the dentist during procedures
  • Instructing patients in aftercare and correct oral hygiene procedures
  • Processing dental X-rays
  • Processing laboratory tasks under the supervision of the dentist
  • Record-keeping
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Assisting patients with payment options or billing problems

How to Become a Dental Assistant

If you are interested in how to become a dental assistant in your area, you can research online your state’s requirements and essential qualifications. Most states have about the same essential requirements, while some advanced dental assisting tasks may involve further specialized training.

Dental Assistant Requirements

Most states require prospective dental assistants to complete a formal, accredited training program and pass an exam, while some others allow on-the-job training. There are about 250 accredited dental assistant programs across the United States. Most of these programs require about a year to complete and result in a certificate or diploma.

Some dental offices may require some experience or proof of on-the-job training in addition to a certificate from an accredited training course. Others may offer apprenticeship opportunities for dental assistants while in high school or during formal dental assistant training. You can ask local dentist offices if they offer such opportunities.

Dental Assisting Skills

Other essential “soft skills” are important to become a dental assistant. These dental assisting skills may not be taught in formal training courses, but they can make the difference between your success at the dentist office or being turned away as unsuitable.

Good Communication and Listening Skills – Good communication is needed between a dental assistant and the patient, as well as with other members of the health care team, in order to maintain patient safety and give quality care. Listening to instructions and being able to carry them out correctly is important to patient care.

Excellent Organizational Skills – A dental assistant will be responsible for handling and filing patient paperwork, making schedules, procedure preparation and other tasks. You must be organized and prepared for upcoming appointments and always be ready to assist the dentist.

Compassion – The skill of compassion is more caught than taught, but when about 60% of people have anxiety about going to the dentist, it is essential. Demonstrating concern and understanding for this helps to ease anxiety and provide a better overall patient experience.

Cooperation – The dental office relies on seamless cooperation of the entire team to provide quality care for patients and ensure they have a good experience. Respect for the entire dental team and an attitude of cooperation helps the office to run smoothly.

Resilience – Every career dealing with people can be difficult at times. A good attitude and strong work ethic are essential when faced with a heavier workload, disgruntled patients or more than your share of problems. If you are dedicated to your job, you will be more likely to pull through with a great attitude.

Is a Dental Assistant a Good Job?

The best way to answer the question, “Is a dental assistant a good job?” is to ask a few local dental assistants their opinion. There may be good days and bad days, but overall, you will likely find favorable answers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for dental assistants is growing, and more men and women are choosing this career. Consider these facts:

  • According to U.S News & World Report, dental assisting is ranked among the top 25 best health care support jobs in the United States.
  • Dental assisting allows one to interact with all sorts of people
  • In 2020, the median annual pay for a dental assistant was $41,180, with the highest 10% earning over $58,390.
  • Most dental assistants work full-time, although there is some flexibility across different dental practices, hospitals and other settings. A few work weekends.
  • Dental assisting is a service career, meeting the needs people of all ages.
  • Dental assistants are part of a team, working with the same people every day.
  • There are several settings that need dental assistants, including:
    • Dental offices
    • Doctor offices
    • Government
    • Military
    • Schools
    • Hospitals
    • Insurance companies
    • Dental suppliers
    • Public health centers

Do you have what it takes to be a successful dental assistant? SPS Dental Academy offers an affordable dental assistant certificate program and is committed to quality learning opportunities through a variety of platforms. Click or call for more information and start your career today!