The education and training process to become a dental assistant is twofold. First, you will need to get a degree or certificate from a school for dental hygiene. Second, you will need to obtain a state license that allows you to practice. Many schools are available all over the country, but online dental hygiene schooling proves to be the most convenient and cost-effective option for many people. Dental hygiene is a growing industry with competitive salary, multiple career paths, and high availability of jobs.
What is a Dental Assistant?
A licensed dental assistant is a specialist in the fields of oral hygiene and preventative oral health. A professional dental assistant offers the following services to their patients:
- Therapy to remove and correct dental disease, promoting healthy mouth and gum tissue
- Preventative service to promote oral health in every patient
- Education on dental habits and hygiene so patients can cultivate their own oral health
Dental Assistants are the first line of defense against dental problems and in the promotion of good dental practice. They work closely with dentists to provide optimal health care for every patient.
What will you learn as a dental assistant?
Dental hygiene students learn all relevant techniques in their field. These include but are not limited to:
- Preventative Health Services and Programs
- Therapeutic Oral Care
- Community Dentistry and Instructional Techniques
How To Become a Dental Assistant?
Most dental offices require an associate’s degree for all entry level jobs. For this reason, an associate’s is typically the minimum education level among dental assistants. Other certifications may be necessary. Every state has different license testing and evaluation. Proper licensing is required of all dental assistants in the US, but education is readily available in most areas of the country.
Associate’s Degree – Most dental assistants have an associate’s degree. This level of education enables hygienists to take on entry level jobs in a dental office. The Associate’s is a two-year degree offered at most community and junior colleges nationwide.
Bachelor’s Degree – The Bachelor’s is a 4-year degree in which the student will cover a broad range of topics, not limited to dental hygiene skills. Additional areas of study will include science, mathematics, and composition.
Master of Science Degree – A Master of Science Degree is another two-year program that follows a completed undergraduate degree. With a MS, a candidate is able to teach dental hygiene as well as receive the highest compensation level among dental assistants.
The future of the dental hygiene career path is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 40% growth in the field over the next half decade. The Bureau also identifies dental hygiene as one of the nation’s fastest growing job markets. This is due to the increasing demand for excellent dental care and the consequent growth in the need for qualified dental assistants. There is also a variety of work available to dental assistants. Dental equipment sales, dental lab technology, public health administration, teaching, and research – all of these are possible career destinations for the licensed hygienist. Dental Assistants can also expect good salaries. Though earning will vary according to geographical location, level of education, and length of experience, the national average salary is $62,795. That translates to nearly $30 and hour. Depending on the place of employment, hourly, salary, and commission based pay are all common payment options.
The job options for dental assistants in are not one-size-fits-all. The marketplace is diverse, including careers in:
- Private Practice
- Health Departments, state and national
- Marketing and Sales
- Educational Software Development
- Clinical Dentistry
- Dental Insurance
In addition to their job description, dental assistants are leaders in public health, education, and health advocacy. Their involvement in commercial ventures and professional associations are all part of their roles in the office and in the community.