The median annual dental assistant salary is $34,500. This is according to a basic market pricing report that was prepared using a Certified Compensation Professionals’ analysis of survey data that was collected from a couple of thousands of human resource departments from employers of different industries, sizes and geographies. This median annual salary is the salary at which 1/2 of the dental assistants earned more than the given amount and half of them earned less than that amount. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,550, and top 10 percent earned more than $47,580.
Many factors usually determine a dental assistant’s income. The geographic location and the type of employment may play a role. For example, dental assistants who work in Alaska receive the highest salaries, while the dental assistants who work in West Virginia receive relatively low incomes per year. The type of employment can also determine a dental assistant’s salary. The pay tends to be much higher for those working as dental assistants in psychiatric hospitals than for those working in general hospitals.
The total compensation package for a dental assistant after the benefits is on an average of about $48,000. Some of the benefits from the employer can include; social security, health insurance, paid time off, pension among others.
Job Description of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants undertake various tasks and duties. These tasks can range from providing patient care to taking x-rays, record keeping and scheduling appointments. The duties can vary by state or by the places where they work.
Duties-and-Responsibilities of a Dental Assistant:
- Working with the patients by making them feel more comfortable in the dental chair and preparing them for the dental procedure.
- Sterilizing the dental instruments.
- Preparing the work area for the patient’s treatment by setting out the required instruments and other materials.
- Helping the dentist by handing him/her the instruments and other material during the dental procedure.
- Keeping the patients’ mouths dry by using suction hoses and other such equipment.
- Instructing the patients on proper dental hygiene.
- Processing x-rays and completing lab tasks, as directed by the dentist.
- Keeping records of all dental treatments.
- Scheduling patients appointments.
- Working on the patients billing and payment.
Dental assistants who perform or complete lab tasks like making the casts of a dental patient’s teeth, usually work under the instruction or direction of the dentist. They can prepare materials for the casts or make temporary crowns.
There are 4 regulated tasks which dental assistants can perform, however this depends on the state or place of work. They include:
- Coronal polishing
- Sealant application
- Fluoride application
- Topical anesthetics application
- Coronal polishing means removing the soft deposits like plaque to give a patient’s teeth a cleaner appearance.
- Sealant application means painting a thin, plastic substance over the teeth of the patient to seal out food particles and acid producing bacteria so as to stop the teeth of the patient from developing any cavities.
- Fluoride application means putting fluoride directly on the patient’s teeth as a form of anti cavity measure.
- Some dental assistants can also qualify to apply topical anesthetic to a patient’s mouth to temporarily numb the area so as to help in preparing the patient for dental procedures.
However, keep in mind that not all states allow the dental assistants to do or complete the above mentioned tasks. Each state normally regulates the scope of practice for the dental assistants and some states may require the dental assistants to take specific exams or meet certain requirements before they allow them to complete or perform these tasks and procedures.
How-To-Become a Dental Assistant
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There are many paths to becoming a dental assistant. There are some states which require a dental assistant to graduate from an accredited program and also pass the state exam. In some other states, there is actually no formal educational requirements.
For those high school students who are interested in working as dental assistants, you should take courses in biology, anatomy and chemistry. Most of the programs that are offered by most community colleges, take about a year to finish/complete, and they lead to a diploma or certificate. Programs that last for 2 years are less common and they usually lead to an associate’s degree.
Some states may require dental assistants to be certified. However, these requirements can vary state to state. To get certification, dental assistants have to pass the Certified Dental Assistant (often abbreviated as CDA) exam from Dental Assisting National Board (also abbreviated as DANB).
Employment of dental assistants was projected to grow by 25% between the year 2012 and year 2022, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. An ongoing research which links oral health to general health will most likely increase demand for dental services.