As implied by the name, dental assistants work under the supervision of a dentist. They take charge of many important tasks including scheduling appointments, caring for patients, cleaning dental tools, and maintaining dental records.Whether you are on your way to becoming a full-time RDH (Registered Dental Hygienist) or are just passionate about a career in oral health, getting an interview to score your ideal dental assistant job is not easy. In fact, it’s quite competitive. And that’s where we can help you. We have created a resume-writing guide to aid you in kick-starting your career.Let’s start by looking at the three main resume formats.
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Job Duties of a Dental Assistant
A dental assistant’s job involves basic administrative and sanitation tasks, usually at the behest of the dentist.
The main job duties performed by dental assistants are:
Fixing appointments and booking slots over the phone or via computer.
Figuring out dental insurance options with patients as they wait their turn with the dentist.
Providing necessary information to patients throughout their time at the clinic/hospital.
Seating patients and writing down oral health issues, like cavities and periodontitis, for dentist’s review. Assisting dental practitioners with oral procedures, such as tooth implants and root canals.
Taking and developing X-rays.
Sanitizing and sterilizing dental equipment before and after use.
Suggesting good oral practices to promote hygiene like flossing and toothbrushing techniques.
Informing the patient about at-home postoperative or post-treatment care.
Dental Assistant Median Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dental assistant’s median salary is $40,080. The mean hourly wage for the same position is $19.79.
Top Skills for Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an integral part of a dental care team. They need several hard and soft skills to perform routine tasks.
A few top skills required for a dental assistant are as follows:
- Expertise in medical record management: The regular tasks of dental assistants include scheduling appointments and keeping medical records. Managing a high bulk of information manually is challenging, and that’s why assistants must know how to use the latest in scheduling and medical data software like Dentrix and Modento.
- Adept at restorative dentistry: The job of a dental assistant requires them to assist dentists in both permanent and temporary restorative dental procedures like dental fillings, placing temporary crowns, and seating permanent crowns. You will also sometimes need to do coronal polishings, which require knowledge in sealant, fluoride, and topical anesthetic application. Although dentists take charge of these procedures, the dental assistants ensure the work area is disinfected and ready for patients, an important job. They also sometimes sterilize instruments and make sure associated tools and products in the office, like the tray setup and mouthwash paper cups, are available.
- Critical-thinking ability: Medical emergencies can and do occur in dentistry. Every dental assistant should remain ready for such situations. They need to know how to identify and rectify possible incidents based on instruction from the dentist to prevent further harm. Most importantly, they need to know infection control protocols set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take preventative measures.
- Manual dexterity: A dental assistant needs to have a dexterous, steady hand. This job requires them to be precise and 100% mentally coherent. Since a dental assistant works on gums and soft tissues, a small error could be painful to their patient and incur thousands of dollars in dental work.
- Compassionate: Being compassionate and empathetic is a relevant soft skill in this field. Dental procedures are painful and can cause stress in patients. Being gentle in your administrative and professional demeanor puts patients at ease, ensures their cooperation, and results in an uncomplicated atmosphere. Assistants should have a basic understanding of various dental procedures to answer all possible queries, including knowing how to thoughtfully describe administering additional pain relief, and explaining safety procedures during X-rays.
- Compliance with authority: A dental assistant needs to follow the dentist’s instructions while working. A disregard for authority can lead to tensions and can put the patient’s safety at risk. Noncompliance with management also inhibits an unhealthy work atmosphere. So, they should possess a collaborative attitude and be ever ready to follow all guidelines put forth by the dentist who they work under.
- X-ray and lab testing: Taking X-rays of patients is one of the main skills needed by dental assistants. They help dentists see the whole dental area that includes the gums, nerves, and the bones deep inside your skull. X-rays help dentists to properly diagnose current and future issues that may lead to pain or possible extractions. The types of X-rays that an assistant is bound to perform include the mouth-focused periapical, occlusal, full-mouth, bitwing, and panoramic ones, as well as the larger, head-frame ones that are closer to CT-scans of the head, known as cephalometric and sialographic.
Educational Requirements for Dental Assistants
Dental assistants require suitable education in oral anatomy and physiology to be able to do their job. Most dental assistants are board-certified and have a degree, although some only receive on-the-job training. In such cases, the dental hygienist teaches the assistant about instruments, techniques and protocols.
The educational requirements for this job are:
A degreeAfter obtaining a high school diploma or a GED, one needs formal training to become a dental assistant. The main dental accrediting body is the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) of the American Dental Association. This program is offered in community colleges, dental schools, and universities. Studies are taught in different dental areas such as teeth, jaws and gums in classrooms and laboratories.
Certification and trainingCertifications are a great way to showcase your credentials and enhance your credibility as a dental assistant. Below is a list of universities and colleges, member associations, industry-related groups, and for-profit organizations providing quality dental assistant training programs.
- Universities and colleges: Indiana University offers an extensive certification program for aspiring dental assistants called Campus Dental Assisting Program, accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. This is a full-time program divided into two semesters and 14 classes. It will provide you with labs, hours of lectures, and clinical experiences. Every student must complete a minimum of 300 clinical hours and undertake 14 courses to earn the certificate.You can also go for the Dental Assisting Program at College of Southern Nevada. The program entails laboratory studies, classroom work, and first-hand clinical experience.There are many more programs like these across the country, including at many junior colleges. Some are Foothill College, Diablo Valley College, Sinclair Community College, and San Joaquin Valley College, which has several onsite campuses.
- Member associations: The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers five national certifications, i.e., National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA), Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA), Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA), and Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA). Each of these certifications offers candidates a competitive advantage over other dental assistants. These are recognized by 37 states, the U.S Air Force, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. To obtain the certification, they have to complete two years of full-time dental assisting work. A person who has received on-the-job-training or has a degree from a non-accredited program can also get certified.Since each state has specific requirements for dental assistants, make sure you check your state’s requirements before applying to the tests.
- Industry-based certification: The American Red Cross provides a CPR training program for dental assistants to be prepared for any emergency. This training will cover numerous aspects, including scene safety, checking responsiveness, clearing the airway, and adult/child/infant choking.
- For-profit companies: Udemy offers an exhaustive nine-month course for aspiring dental assistants in the U.S. You will study the anatomy of teeth, the oral cavity, and the eruption of deciduous teeth. At the end of the course, you will receive a certificate that will ease your journey of becoming a dental assistant. Academic Earth is another organization that provides a comprehensive range of dental assistant programs. You will get the opportunity to practically use laboratory equipment and learn dental procedures to work alongside dentists in the future effectively.
Dental Assistant Resume-Writing Tips
Writing a resume is generally the same process for every job. But how does one write a resume that stands out and works best for this line of work?
We have you covered with our expert resume-writing tips:
- Prove your customer-service skills. Even better if you can provide figures to support your statements. A dentist can find several candidates with similar technical skills but proving that you’re good with people is crucial. Satisfied patients are great for building reputation and goodwill. The ability to build customer relations is something every employer looks for in a prospective employee. So, emphasize character traits like empathy, compassion, and problem-solving.
- Keep it descriptive but concise. This is somewhat tricky. It involves being as informative about your career as you can without being excessive. Use facts and figures to underpin your achievements and qualifications (such as mentioning the number of operations and patients you assisted on), but make sure to stick to the general rule of thumb: only one page.
- Avoid including references or recommendations. It is good to skip putting references in your resume because recruiters view resumes assessing if you are capable of making it to the interview or not. So, portray yourself as a dependable and legitimate choice through the experience and skill set that you list in your resume. References come later in the interview.
- Relate relevant awards and extracurricular activities. When it comes to mentioning your work profile for the dental assistant position, you can include anything related to the field. This can be your role as the valedictorian of your class or your volunteering endeavor in free dental checkups for the homeless. As long as it’s relevant and shows your genuine passion for the job, mention it.
How is a dental assistant different from a dentist?
A dental assistant differs from a dentist in education and experience. A dentist has more knowledge and is a doctor or a medical practitioner. Also, there is a big difference in job roles. Dentists only perform medical procedures and give recovery advice and support. At the same time, dental assistants help dentists while also performing administrative and office tasks. Their job may or may not include handling money.
What is the growth prospect of the dental assistant job?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job is currently in demand, and it is projected to grow at 7% from 2019 to 2029. The need for aesthetic procedures and growing concern for oral health in the boomer, Gen X, and millennial populations is expected to keep dental assistants in demand.
What is the work environment like in the dental assistant role?
Dental assistants generally work in hospitals or dental clinics. They might also work for the government. The work environment is usually safe, with protective equipment used to avoid infections. Low-stress levels and an excellent work-life balance make the work rewarding and versatile. Plus, good pay and opportunities to learn further make it a good career choice.