We know: All About Becoming a Dental Assistant

What do dental assistants do?

Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. They work chair side as dentists examine and treat patients. Some dental assistants prepare materials for impressions and restorations, take dental x rays, and process x-ray film as directed by a dentists.

Dental assistants should not be confused with dental hygienists, who are licensed to perform different clinical tasks.

What kind of education or training do dental assistants need?

Most assistants learn their skills on the job, although an increasing number are trained in dental-assisting programs offered by community and junior colleges, trade schools, technical institutes, or the Armed Forces.

The American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation approved 259 dental-assisting training programs in 2002. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and pre clinical instruction in dental-assisting skills and related theory.

Most States regulate the duties that dental assistants are allowed to perform through licensure or registration. Licensure or registration may require passing a written or practical examination.

How much do dental assistants make?

According the Federal government's Occupational Outlook Handbook, median hourly earnings of dental assistants were $13.10 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.35 and $16.20 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.45, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $19.41 an hour.

What are the employment opportunities for dental assistants?

Job prospects for dental assistants should be excellent. Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012. In fact, dental assistants are expected to be one of the fastest growing occupations through the year 2012.

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