help dentists and dental hygienists in the delivery and maintenance of
oral health care. They perform a wide range of tasks requiring technical
as well as people skills. Some of their duties include helping patients
feel comfortable during examinations and procedures, taking and processing
dental X-rays, sterilizing and disinfecting instruments, recording
patients' medical history, assisting in the construction of dentures and
models of the teeth and mouth, and providing patients with oral care
instructions following certain dental procedures. They may also be called
upon to assist in the daily operation and management of the office by
answering the phone, collecting fees for services, and maintaining a
computerized inventory system. Dental assistants need to be outgoing and
cheerful because they are usually the patient's first impression of the
dentist office. Another important aspect of dental assisting is aiding the
dentist during oral surgery, which requires that an individual be able to
anticipate the dentist's needs and sit still and remain alert for several
hours through longer procedures. Dental assistants are key members of the
dental care team and greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the
delivery of quality oral health care.
Dental assistants work under the supervision of a board-certified dentist.
They usually work in dental offices, public health clinics, hospital
dental clinics, health maintenance organizations, dental schools, nursing
homes, insurance companies (claims), government agencies, the armed
forces, and dental product sales.
High School Preparation:
Students interested in becoming a dental assistant should take high school
courses in biology, algebra, chemistry, English, geometry, dental/medical
assisting, computer skills, health occupations/medical professions
education, physical education, typing, and office procedures.
Individuals interested in dental assisting should have a high school
diploma or equivalent. Programs offered at community colleges accredited
by the Commission on Dental Accreditation usually take 12 to 24 months to
complete. An individual wishing to become certified may take an
examination administered by the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc.,
which will result in the designation of Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).
This will assure the public that the dental assistant is prepared to
assist completely in the provision of dental care. Students interested in
dental assisting should contact schools for information on admission and
course of study.
For educational institutions in
offering this course of study
Employment opportunities for dental assistants should be very good. The US
Department of Labor predicts that demand for dental assistants will grow
by more than 36% through the end of the decade. This is a much faster
growth than the average for all other occupations over the same period.
The growing population and the increasing number of people who retain
their teeth well into old age will fuel the demand for dental services.
There will also be numerous job openings caused by the need to replace
assistants who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the
profession for other reasons. There will continue to be many opportunities
for entry-level assisting positions offering on-the-job training.
Average Annual Salary
American Dental Assistants
35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1730
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 541-1550
National Association of Dental Assistants
900 St Washington St.,
Falls Church, VA 22046
Phone: (703) 237-8616
Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB)
676 North St. Clair, Suite 180
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 642-3368
American Medical Technologists
Rosemont, IL 60018
Phone: (847) 823-5169
Fax: (847) 823-0458
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