Dental assistant jobs - are they right for you? The answer could very well be yes! Dentistry is a dynamic field, continually changing and constantly in need of good people to help advance the profession and provide quality care to patients. If you are looking for quick entry into a career with a solid employment rate and numerous possibilities for interacting with people-but without all the time and money medical school requires-dental assisting could be the right profession for you.

Dental assistant jobs were in strong supply in 2008, with workers holding 295,300 positions. Most of those were in dentists' offices, and a few were employed in physicians' offices and with the federal, state, and local government. During the 2008-2018 decade, employment is expected to increase by 36 percent, "which is much faster than the average for all occupations," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Increased job opportunities will be fueled by a growing population and better dental health among middle-aged and older groups of people.

  • Emphasis on preventive care among younger individuals will also prompt a need for skilled dental assistants.
  • Job growth will also be encouraged as older dentists, many of whom are less likely to employ an assistant, retire and are replaced by younger graduates who might want extra help in their practice.
  • As dentists become busier, they are also more likely to want someone to perform some of the routine jobs in their offices so they can direct their attention to more involved matters.

Your chances of securing a good dental assisting job can depend greatly on your work experience. In some instances, dentists might prefer an assistant who has completed a dental assisting program in school, or who has fulfilled state requirements, before extending an employment offer.

Dental Assistant Job Hints

Because a great number of dental assistant job openings are forecast for the next several years, it can be helpful to know what dentists might be looking for in the employees they hire. This position often has the most untapped potential of all, wrote Linda Zdanowicz for Dental Health Magazine.

Successful dental assistants possess some important personal qualities. Members of this profession need to have good manual dexterity, a respect for patient confidentiality, and an ability to work well in a fast-paced environment. Not only should you be a good team player, but also those with whom you work will want to know you are reliable. In essence, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has explained, you will serve as the dentist's second pair of hands.

Indeed, assistants must love their work. I don't want someone who sees service as servitude, Zdanowicz stated. A person who is willing to go the extra mile in offering great service can be a considerable benefit to the work team. A good education and chairside skills are important, too. Zdanowicz says that one quality she values is intelligence, and knowing that her assistant is able to answer questions confidently and reflect well on the assistant's employer and on the practice as a whole.

Be goal-oriented, Zdanowicz encourages. Live up to your potential. Those who desire to improve their abilities continually can be even more essential to the office.

Dental Assistant Training

For entry-level dental assistant jobs in most states, there is no formal training required. High school students interested in the field should focus their studies particularly on the sciences. Biology, chemistry, and health courses are beneficial, and prospective dental assistants should also learn about office practices. Many times, dental assistants receive their training on-the-job, with the help of the dentist who hired them or from other dental assistants in the office

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that formal schooling is a growing trend in the dental assisting profession.

    Dental Assistant Training
  • Many students are taking part in the programs available at trade schools, technical institutes, community and junior colleges, and even the military to learn about this occupation.
  • Part-time, accelerated, and distance learning options are also available.
  • The time spent in school is relatively short, often lasting just a few months to a year.

As of 2009, the Commission on Dental Accreditation had approved 281 dental assisting training programs. Depending on the type of program you complete, you can earn a certificate or diploma (from one-year courses of study), or even an associate's degree (from a two-year program).

Even with formal education, some on-the-job training could be required to become familiar with the dental assisting profession. Dentists likely have individual preferences for how they work in an office, and the dental assistant will need to learn that style. Similarly, files and dental tools will probably be kept in different places, depending on the office in which you work. Your versatility will be key to helping you succeed.

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Last Updated: 05/05/2014


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