Dental Assistant

The dental assistant is a position that aides the dentist in providing quality oral care.  They have a wide range of duties, such as patient care and administrative and lab work. They work very closely with dentists, patients, and any other office staff.

Job Description

Dental assistants may schedule appointments, prepare patients for the dentist, provide the dentist with appropriate instruments, and even prepare patients for treatment by ensuring they are comfortable. It is the responsibility of the dental assistant to ensure that accurate previous history is compiled from the patient and that blood pressure and pulse are recorded. Then they would also take and process x-rays for the dentist to review. Other dental assistant duties include: apply suction throughout procedures, and assist patients before and after the procedure with oral healthcare. Once any procedures are over the dental assistant completes any cleanup on the patient and the room and would, depending the on practice size, possibly even schedule any future appointments the patient may need.

Work Environment

There are two kinds of areas that a dental assistant may specialize in within the practice, including: with the dentist and in the business aspects of the practice. There are many different types of environments that a dental assistant may work in and those include: small offices, hospitals, schools and clinics, and vocational schools. Usually, dentist assistants will work 35-40 hours per week during regular dentist office hours. Some offices may offer extended hours into the evening or during the weekend and dental assistants would be required to work those hours, as well.

Dental assistants work in a well-lighted, clean environment, and usually sit next to the dentist if they are handling those duties. Assistants must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including: gloves, mask, and special clothing.  They may, at times, be exposed to certain illnesses or diseases and have to work with sharp objects in which handling those objects could result in disease exposure.

Salary Information

The average salary for a full-time dental assistant is about $30,000 a year. The lower salary range is $22,000 and dental assistants can make as much as $45,000, depending on the type of facility in which a dental assistant is employed.  Instructors and/or assistants with dual roles usually make a higher salary.

Most full-time dental assistants are often offered a complete benefits package. This package usually includes: health and dental coverage, uniform allowance, vacation and sick pay, 401K, stock option plans, and life/disability insurances.

Promotion and Career Advancement

The field of Dentistry has a large need for dental assistants and that need is expected to grow in a big way. The reason for this growth is that many dental assistants go on to become dental hygienists, once education for that is completed. Those positions would then need to be back filled. Dental assistants can go on to become hygienists, or can move to the administrative/ office management side, or can even become instructors in the field after they have acquired enough experience.