Careers within the dental industry are highly lucrative and exciting. With a plethora of both clinical and non-clinical opportunities, dental careers are ranked among the highest 100 best jobs around the globe. The industry sees a staggering employment growth each year, currently standing at 17.5 percent for 2018.
To people interested in pursuing a professional dental career path, it can be quite confusing, not to mention overwhelming, choosing just one among the many options. While there are a number of reasons why this may be so, one of the factors contributing to this is the seeming interchangeability of several dental career fields. Though quite similar in terms, dental professions are quite different from one another, varying in job requirements, training, and education as well as the job responsibilities. Here’s a look at the differences between some of the dental career paths.
Different Dentistry Professions
Apart from dentists, the alternative dental professions include dental technicians, dental hygienists, certified dental assistants, and registered dental assistants. Dental technicians, also called dental techs, are specialists who primarily work within the laboratory environment, responsible for structuring, constructing, fitting, and repairing various dental devices and appliances. A dental technician has very limited direct interaction with patients.
Unlike dental techs, dental hygienists work one-on-one with patients, performing advanced tasks independently that a dentist may delegate. A dental hygienist attends two to four yearly dental hygienist programs from accredited schools, and have to appear in and clear state licensure exams before practicing professionally. Dental assistants are the direct aides of a dentist. They are responsible for the preparatory as well as breakdown duties within the dental office. They work closely with both the dental hygienists and dentists.
While both of them have the same responsibilities, there are two types of dental assistants: registered dental assistant (RDA) and certified dental assistant (CDA).
The difference lies in the state that a professional chooses to practice in and the type of program they attended to qualify for this particular career path. Some states require dental assistants to be graduated from and registered with the American Dental Association through an accredited dental assisting program. An RDA needs to pass a written and clinical examination, as well as apply for a state license in order to practice professionally.
A certified dental assistant, on the other hand, only attends and passes a dental assisting program, at the end of which they receive a certificate of completion. Local vocational or technical schools along with community colleges are known to offer a range of dental assisting programs.
The dental assistant job responsibilities include the following:
- Instrument disinfection and sterilization
- Dental office preparation
- Obtaining patient’s dental records
- Handling and providing instrumentation during procedures
- Fluoride treatments
- Patient education on oral care
- Preparing x-ray machines, impression materials, cements, and anesthetics
- Patient handing and scheduling
- Maintenance of patient charts and reports
- Dental supply record and maintenance
- Billing management – accounts payable, and fee collections
- Insurance forms management
Education, Licensing and Training Requirements. Some states require dental assistants to be licensed after attending an accredited dental assisting program at an ADA approved school. Other states only require an active certification and a specific number of hands-on clinical experience.
Dental assisting training continues on the job, though both RDAs and CDAs may attain further certifications to strengthen their dental skills and improve their prospects.
Dental Assistants Salary. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual average median salary for a dental assistant is $35,964, with a range $31,920-$39,767 per annum. The average earnings of a dental assistant per year largely depend on the area of residence, certification, skill set, years of experience, as well as the institution of employment. The minimum hourly wage of a dental assistant is around $12.24. Dental assistants can earn between $37,000 and $45,000 per year depending on their certification and training, clinical experience, as well as the state they are residing in.
How to Choose the Right Dental Career?
Dental industry careers prove to be excellent professional paths. A thriving healthcare sector, it is one of the fastest growing sectors with the most in-demand career choices. Dental careers are well paying, exciting, and highly reliable. However, it can be quite confusing for one to decide where to start and which career to choose from. In order to make the best decision, it’s recommended to evaluate a few essential things when considering your options.
Dental assistants, for example, works under the direct supervision of a dentist and is involved with various aspects of dental and oral surgery. To become a dental assistant, apart from an associate’s degree from a relevant, accredited program, you also have to complete certain dental assistant training programs.
Choosing the right dental career depends on how extensive you wish for the program to be, how soon do you want to begin working and earning, would you rather have a flexible working schedule or would you prefer a traditional 9-5 job, and many more. One of the best ways to make a truly informed decision is to take an introductory course of Dental Assisting from an accredited institution, which prepares you for a career within this industry.
You can enroll in and attend dental assistant training courses available for online training. These courses are designed to educate prospective dental assistants about the possibilities of this career choice along with offering guidance for clearing the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification exam – an essential requirement for the dental assistants to be able to practice within the United States.