There are more than 200,000 dentists treating patients across the country. Each of these works in some kind of dental practice and most have dental assistants to help everything run smoothly.
Becoming a dental assistant is a great way to get into a secure industry with a job that helps people and is always interesting.
These days many people are on the job hunt to find something that fits just right for them. A dental assistant is a great choice that will fit many people’s desires, which is why we’ve put together a full guide with the most important facts you need to know about this career path.
1. Takes Around a Year
Some of the most common questions about this career choice are how to become a certified dental assistant and how long does it take to become a dental assistant. Both very important questions!
A dental assistant program generally takes between nine and eleven months to complete. The student will go through a course of classes, practical lab classes, and hands-on monitored experience. In the end, they’ll be required to take an exam to prove that they have the knowledge and ability to perform the job correctly.
These programs are offered at a variety of schools across the country.
2. More than Cleaning
You may be thinking that a dental assistant will mainly be focused on cleaning patients’ teeth throughout the day. But they actually won’t be doing that at all!
Instead, a dental assistant is responsible for keeping the clinic running smoothly so the hygienists and dentists can do their work without issue. This means they’ll be setting up the room for procedures, cleaning and sterilizing, processing x-rays, and even scheduling appointments.
They work all across the clinic to make sure everyone has the help they need. A dental assistant is a crucial member of the team.
3. Expanded Function
If you think being a dental assistant sounds great but you’d also like to have more responsibilities with patients, you’ll want to look into getting an expanded function certification.
What it is, is a little additional education that allows you to work directly on the patients as well as all the other tasks. This would include administering topical fluoride, molding whitening trays, and even polishing teeth.
A dental assistant with expanded function is one step closer to a dental hygienist.
4. Traditional Work Hours
A huge benefit of being a dental assistant is that you will likely work very traditional hours. Most dental offices are open the typical 8:00-5:00, which gives you consistent periods of work and free time.
There aren’t many instances where you’ll be required to work late, early, holidays, or weekends.
In today’s world of fast-paced industries, it’s nice to find one that doesn’t require all of your free time with little to no flexibility.
5. Education Responsibilities
One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a dental assistant is the opportunity to educate patients during their appointments.
Oftentimes, a patient will be having a problem with their brushing or flossing technique so the dental assistant will be required to go over proper practices with them. They may also help teach the patient ways to help their teeth be stronger including oral health tips and better diet choices.
Educating patients is often a favorite responsibility because the dental assistant gets to create relationships with patients.
6. High Job Availability
In 2019 the job market for dental assistants grew by 7% from the previous year. This is a great indicator of the job availability for those looking to become a dental assistant. Most will be able to find a job in their area fairly quickly.
When you’re looking up how to become a dental assistant, a helpful tip is to look at the opportunities in your area before you begin any training.
Knowing the job market allows you to customize your educational experience to be in the best position to find the job you’re looking for!
7. Fast-Paced Work Environment
When you go to the dentist as a patient, it’s usually a calming experience (even if you don’t enjoy the dentist). They’ve set up an environment that makes you feel comfortable and not rushed.
But that doesn’t mean working behind the scenes is that calm.
When you’re a dental assistant your days will be full and busy! You definitely won’t be bored or have monotonous days. Each hour requires different things from you and you’ll always be kept on your toes. It keeps things exciting and fun to go to work.
8. Stepping Stone to Hygienist
Becoming a dental assistant is a great career choice. It’s in a stable industry and a very necessary position, it’s not likely that this job will go away in the future.
But many may be thinking that they would like to be a dental hygienist and being a dental assistant first is a great stepping stone towards that. It allows you to work in the industry doing some similar tasks, so you can really get a feel for if you’d enjoy that job or not before investing in the additional education.
9. Huge Impact on Patient Experience
Going to the dentist is a hard and scary experience for many patients. They feel anxious and worried, even if they have a great dentist. A great dental assistant can do wonders for these patients and change their whole experience.
It’s so gratifying to be the one who calms a patient enough that they can easily get the care they need to be as healthy as possible.
Steps to Becoming a Dental Assistant
When you spend so much of your life working, you want it to be something you enjoy instead of dreading every single day. Becoming a dental assistant is a choice that will help you feel fulfilled, safe, and financially stable.
You’ll spend your days helping patients feel comfortable, dentists give the best care, and an office running efficiently. There’s not much better than that!
If you’re interested in learning more about this or other career options, check out our other articles today!