The Complete Guide
How To Become A Dental Assistant and save time and money on your certification
Why We Love Dental Assisting
What if you could have a unique career in a fast-paced medical field but without thousands of dollars on tuition or years in medical school?
What if you could help people feel good about their smiles while also earning a great income?
A career as a Dental Assistant is a rewarding one. You will be able to work in a relaxing environment helping dentists treat their patients. The job outlook for these professionals is great. In fact, The U.S. News and World Report ranked dental assisting as the 25th Best Health Care Support Job.
If you think this profession may suit your goals and passions, then keep reading to learn about the amazing benefits a career as a dental assistant offers.
What Do Dental Assistants Do?
A dental assistant works in a dental office performing a variety of duties. They will typically either support office operations, work in dental labs, or work under the supervision of a dentist, directly helping to treat patients.
While the duties performed will vary by dentist and even by state, the following tasks are some you may perform each day:
- Prepare patients for the oral examination
- Organize and maintain lab equipment
- Schedule appointments and follow up with patients
- Take, develop, and mount all radiographs and x-rays
- Prepare treatment rooms, instruments, and tray setups for dental procedures
- Record medical and dental histories and the vital signs of patients
- Handle patient billing and payments
So, let’s imagine you are a dental assistant working for Dr. Bob. Mrs. Bishop comes in for her bi-annual cleaning and examination. You will get Mrs. Bishop ready for her examination by asking her if she has had any changes to her oral health (ie: bleeding gums, tooth pain, etc.) You will then get her situated in the chair, bib her, and make sure all of the trays of equipment needed for exam and clean and ready to go.
If, during the examination, any suspected cavities may be found, you will perform the x-rays and get the films back to the dentist. At the end of Mrs. Bishop’s appointment, you may be the one who takes her payment as well as schedules her next appointment.
Dental assistants play a big role in helping dental offices run smoothly and it’s no surprise these healthcare professionals are in such high demand.
7 Reasons to Become a Dental Assistant
As a highly popular career, there are many reasons why so many people are considering this career. Here are the Top 7 reasons you should consider a career as a dental assistant:
1. No Prior Experience is Needed
Good news! You don’t need any degree or prior experience to gain your certification. In fact, you could start towards a career as a dental assistant in just 4 months.
2. A Great Working Environment
If the idea of working in a typical office environment, staring at a computer screen all day doesn’t appeal to you, then you will most likely enjoy working in a dentist’s office. You have the freedom to move around and also the opportunity to interact with a lot of different people. You also get to perform a variety of tasks so you’ll never get bored and time will fly!
3. You Can Work in Many Different Places
Once you obtain your certification training, the world, or at least the country, is your oyster. Since dental assistants are needed everywhere there are dentists’ offices, you will never feel tied down. From big cities to small rural communities, you’ll have your choice of where in the country to live and work. Also, since there are a variety of dental specialties – from oral surgeons to orthodontists and more – there are plenty of different types of settings you can work in.
4. You Can Help People Every Day
It’s no secret that many people don’t like – okay even hate – going to the dentist. Many people feel scared and anxious during their appointment, and you are someone that can help put people at ease. That kind of makes you like a superhero!
5. Launching Pad for Other Career Opportunities
Becoming a dental assistant is a great way to get your foot in the door of a growing healthcare industry. Once you get some experience under your belt, you will have the opportunity to decide if you want to explore other career possibilities. For instance, you may decide to become an office manager or even a dental assistant instructor to earn a higher salary. Your time as a dental assistant will also give you a solid foundation upon which to continue your education toward becoming a dental hygienist.
6. You’ll Learn How to Take Better Care of Your Own Teeth
The importance of good oral health and hygiene habits cannot be overstressed. You’ll learn plenty about how to take the absolute best care of your own smile!
7. A Healthy Job Outlook and Great Pay
In the comings years there will be a huge demand for dental assistants. And the pay and benefits are also very desirable. But we’ll cover job growth and pay in just a bit.
How to Get a Dental Assistant Certification
Whether you work in a dental office, oral surgeon’s office or a periodontists’ office, prospective employers typically prefer candidates that hold a dental assistant certification.
We recommend you take our certification savings quiz to get started.
Our quiz could help you save time and money on a certification program from the right school or accredited university – and it takes less than a couple minutes to complete.
5 Things to Look for In A Dental Assistant Certification Program
1. Find an online program from an authorized school
If you want to start your career path with the biggest chance of success, then gaining your certification training is a critical step. Beyond gaining a massive amount of necessary knowledge, you’ll also get to hang an official certificate on your wall!
2. Look for a discount and a low monthly payment plan
Many adult students don’t have limitless budgets to gain the right education. That why OnlineDegree.com has made it our mission to help adult learners get huge discounts toward their certification!
3. Make sure an externship placement is included
When it comes time to look for a job, you want to be able to show prospective employers you have gotten real-world hands-on experience. This will help set you apart from the competition.
4. Look for an online, mentor supported course you can take at your own pace
In an ideal world, you’d be able to study at your own pace and on your own schedule. You’d also get all the help and support you need. This is crucial to maintain family life and other responsibilities as you approach this new and exciting career.
5. Find out if textbooks are included in the cost of the program
Have you seen the prices of textbooks lately? Dental Assisting books can be expensive! Look for a program that doesn’t charge extra for books. Don’t worry…we can help you find a program!
6. (Bonus!) Use our free quiz to find a certification program that meets all of this criteria
We’ve done the research for you! Save time by using our healthcare quiz to get matched with the best certification programs. All programs meet this criteria and are chosen for you based on your career goals and life situation.
Dental Assistant Salary Data
How much do dental assistants make? Here is the salary and growth data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for dental assistants was $40,080 in May 2019. Of course, these wages are affected by a variety of factors. You may find, for instance, that the specific type of industry you work in will increase your earnings potential. For example, the BLS shows dental assistants working within government health offices had a median annual salary of $42,960.
Most dental assistants work full time. Some occasionally work evenings or weekends.
Dental Assistant Job Growth Projections and Forecast
How fast is the dental assistant field growing? The answer may make you smile.
This increase in demand is due in part to continued research that links oral health and general health together.
According the BLS, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Also, as the large baby boomer population continues to age, these individuals will seek dental treatments to maintain their teeth and oral health.
If you are interested in becoming a dental assistant, you may also be wondering about which states will be hiring the most. According to the BLS, California has the most employed dental assistants in the country, followed by Texas and New York.
When it comes to cities, New York City hires the most but there are also good job opportunities in cities like Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and Anaheim.
The BLS has also suggested that those dental assistants who carry certification training have the best prospects of finding a good job. Luckily we can connect you with accredited universities that offer this training!
How to Find a Job as a Dental Assistant
If a career as a dental assistant appeals to you, your very first step should be to obtain certification training through an accredited university. This will ensure a solid educational foundation and get you ready to enter the job market.
Next, you’ll want to determine what type of environment you’d like to work in. In addition to traditional dental practices, dental assistants also have the opportunity to work in specialty areas, such as:
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Pediatric dentistry
Once you’ve figured out what work environment you’d like to work in, you should definitely try and gain some real-world experience before starting your job search.
The good news is a quality certification program will include an externship so you can gain some hands-on experience!
Frequently Asked Questions
Additional questions and answers you may have about becoming a Dental Assistant and getting certified:
Q: What Does a Dental Assistant Do Every Day?
A: A dental assistant performs a wide variety of tasks that help the office run smoothly. Of course, duties will vary depending on the type of office you work in, but generally speaking, a dental assistant will do things like maintain patient records, assist dentists during procedures, sterilize equipment and complete basic lab tasks.
Q: What is a Dental Assistant Certification?
A: A dental assistant certification is a valuable asset to have as it shows prospective employers that you have taken the time to learn everything you need to know – they won’t need to train you on the job. This certification will hopefully be something that gets your resume to the top of the heap!
Q: What Skills Will I Learn in Dental Assistant Training?
A: Your training will include topics such as proper cleaning and sterilizing of equipment, how to take a dental x-ray, how to assist with oral health procedures, and other information.
Q: What Are the Prerequisites for Enrollment in a Certificate Program?
A: The only requirement for enrollment in these programs is a high school diploma or equivalent.
How to Start Towards a Dental Assistant Career In 2-4 Months
Even if you don’t have any prior experience or degree – you could start towards a career as a dental assistant in just 4 months! In fact, that’s one of the greatest advantages of this profession.
So here’s what we recommend you do to get started: Take this quiz to see if you qualify for an online certification program from an authorized school or accredited university.
A dental assistant certification is required or preferred by most employers. Plus, taking a certification program could be the best way to get your foot in the door, build your network, get training, and work experience.
Take this quiz to see if you qualify for:
- 10% Off A Certification Program
- An Externship For Real Work Experience
- Affordable Programs and Low Monthly Payments
- A FREE Laptop To Take The Course If You Don’t Have One
- No Extra Cost For Textbooks – All Included and Shipped To Your Door
- Online, Mentor Supported Courses You Can Take 24/7 At Your Own Pace
If you are ready to get started on an exciting and rewarding career as a dental assistant, then take this short quiz to get started toward your dream!