How do I become a dental assistant

Dental Assistant 101: How to Become a Dental Assistant

Have you thought about earning a living by keeping people smiling? That’s pretty powerful stuff. We’re not talking about standup comedy here folks. We’re talking about the world of dental assisting! Yes, this particular group of healthcare heroes are the ones who go deep in the trenches (of your mouth) to keep people’s smiles healthy and radiant. Not a bad gig, right? So, if you’re considering a future as a dental assistant, here are some of the things you should know. 

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Dental assistants are a crucial part of any dental practice and provide essential support and patient care to assist the dentist or other clinical personnel. Dental assistants typically perform both administrative and clinical duties including:

  • Preparing and sterilizing instruments
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Dental charting and records management
  • Taking and processing x-rays
  • Educating patients on oral hygiene and post-operative care
  • Clinical procedures such as infection control, hazardous materials management, basic chair-side assisting, instrument transfer, anesthesia, and sedation
  • Dental insurance billing and coding, insurance claim filing 

How to Become a Dental Assistant

Although the requirements to work as a dental assistant may vary from state to state, below are the typical steps it takes to pursue a career in dental assisting. 

  1. Research dental assistant programs
    Before you pursue any formal education, it’s important to research the different programs in your area to find the one that is best for you. Explore the curriculum at the different schools you’re considering, and you may also want to look into programs that offer specialized training or certifications.
  2. Learn what the admissions and financial requirements 
    Once you’ve decided on where to get your training, the next step is to figure out how to pay for your training. Contact the financial aid department at the school you’ve chosen and see if you qualify for any type of grants or assistance. You’ll also need to find out what the enrollment requirements are. Most programs will require a high school diploma or GED to be accepted. In addition, research what the licensing requirements are in your state for actually working as a dental assistant. 
  3. Enroll and complete an accredited program
    Depending on your state, you may need to obtain a certification to practice as a dental assistant. This can be done through the appropriate certification entity in your state after you’ve completed an accredited program, which may also require you to pass a state-mandated exam before being certified.
  4. Find Employment as a Dental Assistant
    Once you have your certification or license in hand, you can begin your job search. There are many employment opportunities available for dental assistants, both in private practice settings and in larger healthcare systems. Some states also allow dental assistants to take on expanded roles, such as taking x-rays or administering nitrous oxide. 

The Future of Dental Assisting

The increased demand for preventive dental services, as well as more complex procedures means more dental assistants will be needed to help dentists and hygienists perform those services. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for dental assistants are expected to grow by more than 30,000 jobs by 2021, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. Not to mention, the demand for dental assistants is also growing in rural and underserved areas, where there may be a shortage of qualified dental staff. All-in-all, the future of fixing smiles looks pretty bright!

If you’d like to learn more about joining the talented professionals out there making the world better one smile at a time, you should check out the dental assisting program at Caris College. With an accelerated 10-month program and hands-on training, Caris is helping students launch careers in dental assisting. Contact us today for more information!