A dental assistant is trained to sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, prepare and lay out instruments, provide assistance to dentists during treatment and instruct patients on oral health care. Dental assistant jobs are expected to increase as dentists hire more assistants to perform routine tasks, thus freeing them for more complex procedures. Most assistants work in dentists' offices. A few work in physicians' offices or are employed by Federal, state or local governments.
Education and Training
The minimum education requirement to be a dental assistant is a high school diploma. Recommended course work includes classes in biology, chemistry, health and office practices. In most states, there is no formal training required to be a dental assistant. There are dental assistant programs at community and junior colleges that include classroom, laboratory and preclinical instruction in skills and related theory. Most programs take approximately one year to complete. A dental assistant must have good manual dexterity.
License and Registration
Most states regulate the duties that a dental assistant may perform. Licensure and registration are required in some states. Attending an accredited dental assisting program and passing a written or practical examination may be part of the requirements. Clinical hours, along with continuing education may also be required. Contact the appropriate state board directly for specific requirements. Employment in some states may be contingent on being licensed and/or registered.
States With Highest Dental Assistant Pay
According to the Occupational Employment Statistics from the Department of Labor, the mean hourly wage in the United States for Dental Assistants was $16.35 in 2009. The mean annual wage was $34,400.
The states with the highest hourly pay/annual wages for dental assistants include Alaska with $20.99/$43,670, Minnesota with $19.96/$41,510, District of Columbia with $21.94/$45,630, New Hampshire with $19.67/$40,910 and Massachusetts with $19.58/$40,730.
Metro Areas With Highest Dental Assistant Pay
The metro areas with the highest dental assistant pay include Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA with $22.47/$46,740, Manchester, NH with $22.17/$46,110, Anchorage, AK with $21.61/$44,960, Taunton-Norton-Raynham, MA with $21.38/$44,480 and Waterbury, CT with $21.34/$44,380.
Career Advancement for Dental Assistants
Some dental assistants go back to school to become a dental hygienist, which is a higher paying position--median annual wages were $66,570 in May 2008. A dental hygienist must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene school with either an Associate degree, a certificate, a Bachelor's degree or a Master's degree. Additional training and school is required to pursue most opportunities with advanced skill and higher salaries. Some dental assistants become office managers, instructors or dental product sales representatives.
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How Much Does a Dental Assistant Make?
A good dental assistant can make a dentist feel as though she has a second pair of hands. Trained in post-secondary certificate...