While there are many paths to becoming a dental assistant depending on the state, the most common career trajectory starts with a postsecondary diploma in dental assisting. A program that offers hands-on clinical experience is especially important and will help you become more employable after graduation. If you are wondering how to become a dental assistant, and what dental assistant training includes, know there are many different paths.
If you are considering a career in dental assisting, you probably have many questions, starting with – What does a dental assistant do? A dental assistant might perform office tasks, provide patient care, prepare equipment and supplies for the dentist, take x-rays and act as the “right hand” to the dental hygienist and dentist. First, let’s consider the physical demands. A dental assistant must be able to work on his or her feet for a sustained period of time and must thrive in fast-paced environments. The dentist might ask for a specific tool and, within a split second, expects the dental assistant to be ready with the request. For this reason, strong communication skills are essential.
Dental assistants are certainly clinicians, but they are also educators who inform patients about good dental hygiene practices. A genuine interest in promoting health will help you be passionate when working in this field.
As far as personality fit goes, a successful and competent dental assistant must be congenial, friendly and put patients who are sometimes in distress at ease. If you are going to work in a pediatric clinic for example, a good rapport and genuine love of children is necessary. An important consideration to make when pursuing a career in dental assisting is whether the environment is one in which you can feel comfortable and confident. Many students begin in a dental assisting program and realize quickly into their clinical experience that they do not like working with individuals who are in pain. Shadowing a dental assistant will help you realize these “deal-breakers” of the job early.