It is recommended to enroll in an accredited dental assisting course as the best choice of action to pursue a career as a dental assistant. The more professional the training and education, the better the opportunity to land a good job.
However, before you embark on a career as a dental assistant and make the financial commitment for education and skills training, you should consider whether dental assisting is the right career for you.
The best source to go to for information regarding dental education/training and career paths is the American Dental Association. Even though becoming a highly skilled dental assistant takes years of experience, the time it takes to become a dental assistant is relatively short. Most dental assistants receive some formal education.
Throughout the country, there are many academic programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, universities and dental schools. Programs take anywhere from nine to twelve months to complete, and some offer an accelerated path to completion. Vocational schools and technical institutes offer a fast track to the job, but these schools must be accredited for your education to hold any merit in the industry. You must attend a course accredited by CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) of the American Dental Association to be eligible to take the national certification examination if you complete a non-accredited school or receive training on the job you must be employed two years full time to be able to take the exam.
In some states, a Radiation Health and Safety examination and an Infection Control examination are also required to be a dental assistant. There is quite a difference in salary for an entry-level trainee dental assistant versus one that has graduated from an accredited academic program and has passed the certification and licensing examinations. According to the Dental Assistants National Board or DANB, certified dental assistants’ median salary is $20.46 an hour, nearly $2 more per hour than non-certified dental assistants. Entry level dental assistants with no previous training can expect to be paid anywhere from $13.00 to $16.00 per hour.
According to the American Dental Association, there are approximately 270 Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited dental assisting programs in the United States. Becoming a dental assistant is a process as is anything worthwhile in your life; however, some due diligence is necessary to determine whether this is the best choice for your personal and professional life.
What has defined my life up till now?
Do I have career goals, and what are they? Choosing dental assisting because it looks appealing is not the reason to choose a career in the work. What types of past employment have I had, and was it something I enjoyed or did I want something very different? Is healthcare and taking care of patients something, I would enjoy doing? Does the thought of blood or body fluids sicken me? To answers these questions, you could visit one or two dental practices and speak to the assistants and the doctor, have them give you a tour and perhaps let you observe a typical day of patient care.
Where am I now in my career path?
What are my skills, strengths, and weaknesses? What have I learned from previous jobs that have led me to dental assisting? What special skills or education do I bring to the career of a dental assistant? Dentistry is face to face with people job all day long. Do I enjoy interacting and communicating with people for eight hours straight? Extroverted personalities succeed in this environment, but introverted personalities will struggle to find a balance in needing alone time. If you enjoy helping people and improving their health, dentistry is an excellent opportunity. Make a list of your pluses and minuses and compare with what is required by the job as an assistant. Do I see myself doing this work in five to ten years?
How will I reach my goals?
If you decide to become a dental assistant, what path will you take? The education you decide upon will depend on finances and time. If you can get on the job training, this would be a great way to go. You will be able to achieve training and paid at the same time. You will have to work for less pay because you will not be licensed to perform specific duties until you are certified. You would be eligible in two years to sit for the examination. If you decide to take the vocational school route, this would involve an investment of thousands of dollars and a fast track preparation for the test. You would have to keep your day job and take night courses or some online work to accomplish your goals?
Is there further advancement for dental assistants?
The answer to this question is "yes." Many career dental assistants have passionately enjoyed their work for decades, and other dental assistants have gone on to become dental hygienists, dental office managers, dental supply representatives or dentists to name a few. Dentistry offers many opportunities for employment and advancement; it is up to you based on where you see yourself and what income you wish to create for your future. Building a career philosophy will help to direct your vision and goals for yourself. Having a philosophy of helping others will help you choose an employer who thinks as you do.
Have I determined my worth to myself and to my employer?
Will dental assisting fuel your self-worth and be the type of work that makes you feel you are reaching your potential? The question always comes to salary and what you expect to make and what you can make in the current climate. You will need to know what the costs are for living in your area and whether the going rate of a dental assistant will sustain that life for an extended period. Salary increases depend on your work but also the success of the dental practice. Dentistry is mostly a small business that depends on proper management to be profitable. Is your self-worth tied to a six-figure salary with many benefits, profit sharing, and a pension? You may want to pursue another line of work. There are many lifestyle benefits of dental assisting such great hours and usually, no weekend hours, dental benefits, uniform or dress allowance, health insurance, and some offer retirement plans and profit sharing.
Am I positive and caring enough to put others first?
To be the best asset in your work as a dental assistant, you must be a positive, upbeat person who thinks of others first. Before taking steps to become a dental assistant, decide what you need and want in a job and what your underlying philosophy is about your career.
When you decide to become a dental assistant know that there is an excellent source, CloudDentistry.com, for finding positions of employment and for building your brand online. You will be highly visible with your profile where practices can see your qualifications, your reviews, and your rates. You can choose work that fits your availability and your needs. You no longer must rely on messy job boards or the limited opportunities of temp agencies.
There is a vast, and ever-growing demand for dental assistants, and CloudDentistry.com is there to help fill the need.