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Dental Assistant Careers

Dental assistants provide different types of patient care, office duties, and laboratory duties.

Dental assistants held about 280,000 jobs in 2006. Most worked in dentist's offices while others worked in physicians' offices, educational services, and hospitals. About one-third of all dental assistants worked part-time, sometimes working for more than one dental practice.

Dental assistants must be reliable, work well with others, and have good manual dexterity. In some states, dental assistants must be licensed or registered. In a few states, they may have to pass a state-approved course in radiology.

Some dental assistants become office managers, dental-assisting instructors, or dental product sales representatives, but opportunities are limited for those without further education. Some dental assistants become dental hygienists after going back to school.

The job outlook for dental assistants is excellent -- employment in this field is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that it will be the third fastest growing occupation for which a degree isn't required.

Median hourly earnings for dental assistants were $13.62 in 2007. Median annual wages were $31,550 (U.S.). On a typical day a dental assistant who delivers patient care will:

  • Make patients as comfortable as possible in the dental chair, prepare them for treatment, and obtain dental records
  • Hand instruments and materials to dentists, and keep patients' mouths dry and clear by using suction or other devices
  • Sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, prepare tray setups for dental procedures, and instruct patients on postoperative and general oral health care
  • Sometimes prepare materials for making impressions and restorations, expose radiographs, and process dental x-ray film as directed by a dentist
  • Sometimes remove sutures, apply anesthetics to gums or cavity-preventive agents to teeth, remove excess cement used in the filling process, and place rubber dams on the teeth to isolate them for individual treatment
  • Keep treatment records
  • Send bills and receive payments
  • Order supplies and materials

If you are looking for a fast-paced well paying career, Dental Assistant may be the job for you.

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