Many career training programs highlight the healthcare industry as a place to find a fast-growing career with a short training period, but dental assisting can be an even better choice for the right person. Dental assistants make a competitive salary, will enjoy a great deal of job stability, and won’t need to take on a large amount of student loan debt to complete a training program. After training to become a dental assistant, you will be ready for a new, rewarding career.

Dental office staff standing in a patient room smiling.

Are the Requirements to be a Dental Assistant the Same as a Hygienist?

Dental assistants are different from dental hygienists. Dental assistants have a variety of tasks, including preparing the dental rooms, stocking supplies, preparing charts, taking X-rays, and scheduling patient appointments. A dental assistant will usually greet the patients, ensure their comfort, and assist the dentist during procedures. Unlike hygienists, they are not responsible for examining patients, cleaning teeth, and providing dental care, and therefore, both the training and requirements to begin the career are slightly different. 

What Do You Need to Do to Become a Dental Assistant?

Start by speaking with your own dental office about what goes into the career and decide if becoming a dental assistant is right for you. Talk to the dental assistants about what they like about their jobs and see if they will offer you the chance to shadow them. Think about the traits you have that lend well to being a dental assistant. As a dental assistant, adhere are certain skills that will make you successful in this line of work:

  • Good communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Multi-tasking abilities
  • Patience 

Once you have decided to become a dental assistant, you will enroll in a dental assistant training course. The course will lead to a diploma or a certificate stating that you have learned the necessary skills required to work in this position. Some states require certifications, while others do not, but even in a state that doesn’t require certification, earning one can help you get a good job by demonstrating the high standards you have met.

What Does Dental Assistant Training Look Like?

Dental assistant training will vary slightly from school to school. Some programs can be completed in as little as 12 weeks and will cost under $5,000, while others take longer to allow for students who are working full time to complete the training. During the training program, you will have both clinical labs and lecture style classes and will learn dental anatomy and physiology, dental charting, sterilization and infection control, dental X-ray techniques, instrumentation, dental materials, and some clinical procedures. The curriculum is comprehensive enough for any skill you will need in your work as a dental assistant. After you have completed the training program and externship, job placement assistance is usually available. Dental assisting school graduates will benefit from the relationships of the program to the local dental community. Many dental assistant graduates will receive immediate job offers after completing the program.

If you decide to become a dental assistant and start dental assistant training, you are on your way to a stable, well-paying career. Dental assistant salaries vary by location, they’re able to work more regular hours, and the need for dental assistants is growing faster than 10% per year. Without a long training period or incurring significant debt, you will have a career you can be proud of that you’ll be starting in a relatively short amount of time. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a dental assistant, or you’re ready to enroll, contact South Florida Dental Assisting School today!