So you're looking at a career change, and you’re considering becoming a dental assistant. That's an excellent choice!
The dental assistant field is growing much faster than the average pace. Because of that, it’s a steady career choice with lots of opportunity.
Dental assistant job openings are on the rise because the general population is aging. This means more people will need preventative dental health care, which will lead to dental practices opening or expanding. And that means more dental assistants will be needed to meet the demand.
Read on for more information on the outlook of dental assistant jobs.
How Many New Jobs Will The Industry Have?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry will grow 19% from 2016-2026. This means there will likely be more than 64,000 new jobs for dental assistants.
What States Employ the Most Dental Assistants?
If you’re interesting in becoming a dental assistant, you may very well wonder about the growth in your own state.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California has the most employed dental assistants in the country, followed by Texas and New York.
New York City is the highest employer of dental assistants in terms of metropolitan areas. Los Angeles comes in a close second.
Other cities with a good opportunity outlook for dental assisting include Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and Anaheim.
What is the Job Outlook in Florida?
Florida is fourth highest in the number of dental assistants employed by state. 19,000 dental assistants are currently employed in Florida, and the mean income for a Florida dental assistant is $18.23 an hour, or $37,920 per year.
Florida has a high population of aging individuals, which can contribute to the growing healthcare needs within the state. This is especially true in larger metropolitan areas or beachside cities like Miami and Sarasota. With the overall projected growth of dental assistants combined with the high amount of dental assistants employed in Florida, the career outlook in this state is positive.
What Work Do Dental Assistants Perform?
Now that you know there’s growth and opportunity in this field, you may wonder what you'll be doing as a dental assistant. There are a few tasks you're likely to perform in any state. And in most states, dental assistants also perform some procedures.
In most dental offices, you'll be responsible for ensuring the patient is comfortable, ensuring the dental tools are sterile, drying the patient's mouth during procedures, processing X-rays, discussing oral hygiene with patients, keeping patient records, and other tasks as needed. You may also work on the office's billing or schedule appointments.
You may also be called upon to do some procedures. In some cases, the majority of the patient's time in the dental chair will be with you, if he or she does not need any serious dental work.
In most states, you’ll also perform cleanings, known as coronal polishing. You may also help with sealant applications, which is a way to protect teeth from cavities. In this procedure, you or the dentist applies a small coating of film over any cracks in the tooth to prevent a cavity from forming.
You may also do fluoride treatments to help keep patients' teeth and gums healthy.
In some states, you may also administer the numbing agent to a patient having a procedure performed. In other states, the dentist exclusively performs this.
Lastly, you may perform whitening procedures to keep your patients' teeth looking pearly white.
How Much Will You Get Paid?
Your salary is negotiated with your particular employer. However, the 2017 median pay was $37,630 per year or $18.09 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This can change depending on where you live or your level of experience.
Some dental practices may offer higher or lower salaries for their dental assistants.
What Do Dental Assistant Programs Consist Of?
Programs vary by state. Some states require that dental assistants graduate from an accredited program, while others accept a high school diploma and on-the-job training. However, gaining an associate degree can help you earn more on average than those with only a high school degree.
Dental assistant programs typically cover basic duties and office practices. They may even include having on-the-job training by interning in dental offices.
Non-degree programs typically last for one year, but you can also pursue an associate degree, which usually takes two years (times vary based on the individual student). A Bachelor's degree is not typically required to become a dental assistant.
In some states, you can train on the job instead of taking formal education. You can receive your training from the dentist and seasoned dental assistants.
Will I Need to Pass an Exam?
In many states, you must pass a written and practical exam in order to practice. This test is typically taken after passing an accredited program with your associate degree or diploma. After you successfully complete the exam, you should be able to practice anywhere in the state within entry-level positions.
Each state has a different requirement for your license, so it’s best to consult with the state's board before preparing for the exam or enrolling in a course.
Will I Be Required to Take Further Education Courses?
Many medical professional licenses require that you continue your education during your employment. This means that you will have to continue your studies by attending various courses throughout your time as a dental assistant.
This is to help make sure that your training is up-to-date and that you can provide your patients with the best care possible.
The amount of education required depends on the state in which you practice. Depending on the employer, the dental office where you work may also fund your continuing medical education courses (CME).
Which State Pays the Most?
Washington, DC tops the list with an average mean wage of $49,210.
Following close behind are Minnesota at $48,770, New Hampshire at $47,170, Alaska at $45,900, and North Dakota at $45,600.
Where Else Can Dental Assistants Work, Aside from Dental Offices?
Dental assistants most often work in dental offices. Dental offices employ the most dental assistants across the board, no matter which state.
However, a small amount of dental assistants work in other environments. Some work in doctor's offices, while others work in government facilities. These dental assistants sometimes help with low-income workers and families who may not be able to afford to see a dentist.
While any dental assistant will likely help the dentist perform more than just routine exams, the ratio of more serious dental help to regular exams may be higher in a doctor's office.
Dental assistants may also work in dental schools at universities or colleges. These dental schools may treat members of the public while dentists receive training. Dental assistants can assist in these environments.
They may also work at outpatient care centers or hospitals. In these cases, they may see more emergency cases than they would at a dental office.
Dental assistants can typically move from office to office. Or they can decide to split their time between an office and university, for example.
This may be up to the assistant or the dentist managing the main office.
Should I Become a Dental Assistant?
Becoming a dental assistant can be a great way to make a career for yourself. The career field is growing, and dental offices employ a lot of dental assistants in Florida and across the United States.
For more information, read about the dental assistant training program we offer at Ultimate Medical Academy.