What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
In a dental assisting role, you’ll be responsible for things like maintaining patient records, educating patients on basic dental health and resources, and prepping patients for exams and procedures.
If you do pursue a career as a dental hygienist, your role could be expanded into duties like examining patient teeth and gums, making it a more hands-on position.
Dental assisting jobs allow dentists to focus more on patient health, while those in assisting positions take care of administrative and technical duties. Because of this, every successful dentist needs great assistants in order to thrive.
If you’re in a dental assisting role, whether as a hygienist, assistant, or technician, your duties might vary by practice, or even by state. Generally speaking, you’ll be tackling administrative duties and patient prep no matter where you’re employed, but other responsibilities can vary. Typically, someone in a dental assisting role takes care of the following:
If you take on a dental hygienist role, you will also be examining patients’ gums and teeth to check for diseases or abnormalities, as well as applying sealants, fluoride, remove stains and plaque from teeth, and take X-rays.
Should you choose a dental technician career, you will not have the same administrative duties as hygienists or assistants; instead, your duties will revolve around crafting dentures, crowns and other dental prosthetics for patients.
What Certification Will I Need to Become a Dental Assistant?
The certification needed to practice dental assisting varies by job title, and it sometimes varies by state, also.
To qualify for the title of CDT, technicians need to have at least five years of on-the-job training or experience in dental technology, or have graduated from an accredited dental laboratory technician program. On top of this, you must also pass three exams to become a CDT.
Certified Dental Assistant Examination
The Certified Dental Assistant exam is approximately four hours long and consists of 320 test questions. On a scale of 100 to 900 available points, test-takers must pass with a score of 400 or better, which they earn by completing 3 test sections:
Where Can I work as a Dental Assistant?
If you pursue a career in dental assisting, you can choose to focus on becoming an assistant, hygienist or technician. Whichever of these careers you choose to pursue will impact where you work, but generally speaking, dental assistants and hygienists almost always work in dentists’ offices, and dental technicians tend to work in laboratories.
Specialties and Alternatives
In addition to traditional dental practices, dental assistants have the opportunity to work in specialty areas, such as:
Dental Assistant Advancement
Experienced dental assistants may be promoted to an office manager or supervisor position. Your salary may increase as you are promoted, or receive education to fill one of these roles. Some other career paths for dental assistants include: