Becoming a dental assistant is a fast growing career with a lot of great opportunities. The job market seems like it changes quickly, and many students worry about whether there will still be jobs available after graduation.
Many factors go into choosing your college major, including your level of personal interest in the field and the outlook for the career.
If you're considering a career in dental assisting, you should be reassured by the fact that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 18 percent job growth for dental assistants between 2014-24, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Dental assisting is a highly rewarding field that can offer opportunities to work flexible schedules as a valued member of a team.
The Qualities of a Dental Assistant
Even though a dental assistant is an essential member of the office support staff, they have a level of responsibility and skill that goes far beyond support positions in other types of offices.
You'll spend more time with the patient than the dentist will, performing patient care duties, so your skills need to be top notch. You will make nearly as much of an impression on the patients as the dentist does.
Assistants also need to have good people skills to help keep patients calm and comfortable during situations that may cause anxiety.
In addition to all these duties, you also need to be good at anticipating many people's needs all at once. You need to help the dentist, the patient, and may even have to pitch in at the front desk with verifying insurance and maintaining patient records.
Dental Assistant Duties
Most dental procedures are complex enough that a single pair of hands can't properly do the job, so the dental assistant is the figurative "right-hand man" that the dentist can't function without.
While attending a dental assistant program, you will learn how to be an essential participant in performing dental tasks. Unlike some college programs that focus exclusively on book learning, a dental assistant program also includes a significant amount of hands-on training.
Helping the dentist with procedures is only one part of the job. Another function of the job is to sterilize the dental instruments and chairs in-between appointments.
Face time with patients is another crucial aspect of the job, including spending time with patients after procedures, giving post-treatment instructions, and teaching proper follow-up care upon discharge. Your skills will be essential to the operation of the office.
In many ways, the dental assistant is the one who holds the office together by ensuring that all aspects of patient care are well coordinated.
While significant surgeries will be done by the dentist, assistants can do most of the cleaning and smaller procedures such as fluoride treatment. You need to be an organized, dynamic, high-energy kind of person, but a dental assistant program will teach the technical aspects of the job you need to know.
Poised for the Future
Once you finish a dental assistant program, you have plenty of additional opportunities if you fall in love with the dental field. Many dental assistants go on to become a dental hygienist or even to become a dentist themselves.
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