The dental industry is a vital part of modern life. Dentists and people who work and dental practices keep people’s teeth clean and healthy and work to make people happier and more hygienic.
One lesser-known role that plays an important role in this profession is a dental assistant. If you’re considering a career as a dental assistant, you might have some questions about what this job will entail.
In this article, we’re going to take you through everything you’ll want to know about the profession of dental assistants, including the average salary of dental assistants, as well as the factors that can influence their earning potential.
We’ve also included some additional information about this job role so that you’ll have more to think about.
What Is A Dental Assistant?
Dental Assistants are healthcare professionals who work out of dental offices, clinics, and sometimes in hospitals. It is their responsibility to assist dentists (and/or dental hygienists) in a range of tasks.
Dental assistants can do anything from patient care to general office management. Dental assistants are also likely to be in training from their superior, licensed dentists or dental hygienists. So you might be wondering what an average day looks like for a dental assistant.
Some of the most common duties for a dental assistant might include helping to take x-rays, preparing patients for dental procedures, sterilizing and preparing dental equipment, and also managing patient records.
Dental assistants also often provide assistance during dental procedures, helping patients out, and ensuring that their dentist has the tools and equipment they need to complete a procedure.
How Much Does A Dental Assistant Make?
A good place to start is to check out estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (otherwise known as the BLS). According to their figures, the median annual wage for a dental assistant is around $41,180 as of May 2020.
So from this, we can assume that half of the dental assistants measured earned more than this amount, while others earned less.
Estimates for the highest pay a dental assistant achieved in this time period go all the way up to $57, 510, while the lowest examples of pay cap out at $28,050 per annum.
At this point in our article, it’s important to note that the salary of a dental assistant can vary wildly depending on a number of external and internal factors. In the sections below, we’re going to explore some of these:
- Location: Both the cost of living in a specific area, and the demand for dental assistants can vary depending on location. Generally, you will find that dental assistants who work in larger cities or cosmopolitan areas will earn more than those who work in either small towns or rural areas. This is similar to many jobs across different industries.
- Personal Experience: As with any job, more experience means more chance of higher pay. Experienced dental assistants could be eligible for higher-paying positions with more responsibility. A common job promotion for a dental assistant is either an office manager or a dental hygiene educator.
- Education and Credentials: While a high school diploma is usually the only educational requirement for becoming a dental assistant, additional certifications, degrees, or qualifications can increase your chances of higher earning potential. For example, many dental assistants will choose to earn certifications in dental radiography, or infection control, both of which can be used practically within a dental practice and increase their overall value to their employers.
- Practice/Employer: Dental assistants who work for larger practices (or hospitals) can earn more than those who work for smaller practices or clinics. This varies wildly depending on the place in question, and can also be affected by other external factors like the ones we have discussed above.
How To Become A Dental Assistant?
If you want to become a dental assistant, the first step is to earn a high school diploma or equivalent. While not always required, some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a dental assistant program or earned a certification.
The idea is to make sure you increase your chances as much as you can, so early groundwork such as certifications and qualifications can be a great first step!
Various dental assistant programs are available at community colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools.
These programs typically take between nine months and two years to complete and cover topics such as dental anatomy, radiography, infection control, and patient care.
All of these are important skills that you’ll need to know to become an effective dental assistant. After completing a dental assistant program, you may choose to earn additional certifications or credentials.
The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers a variety of certifications, including the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) and the Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA).
Earning these certifications can increase your earning potential and demonstrate your expertise to potential employers. Once you’ve completed your education and earned any necessary certifications, it’s time to start your job search.
You can find dental assistant positions through job search websites, dental industry job boards, or by contacting dental practices directly.
It can be difficult to find a job in a specific field like this one, but you’ll find the experience easier once you have a foot in the door. Being tenacious and open-minded are essential skills you’ll need to develop to find a job.
To conclude, you should know that dental assistants play an important role in the dental industry, providing care to patients and essential support to dentists and/or dental hygienists.
Although dental assistant salaries can vary depending on location, experience, education, employer type, you can expect the annual wage for a dental assistant to be somewhere around the $40,000 per year mark.
However, with the right education, credentials, and experience, dental assistants can increase this earning potential. We hope that this guide has helped you to understand some of the basics around this exciting job choice, and that you now know a lot more about it!
We wish you the best of luck with your chosen profession and hope that you pick something that will be both beneficial to yourself, and society as a whole.