Dental Assistant program

To Be or Not to Be a Dental Assistant?

If you type in the words dental assistant on Google, you will be bombarded with over 18 million hits. Needless to say, that’s a lot of information to search through if you are interested in becoming a dental assistant.

Let’s try and combine some important information about becoming a dental assistant in one place, shall we?

It’s my opinion that the dental assistants can make or break a dental office. If you’re anything like me, you probably see your actual dentist for all of five minutes. Most of the time, you don’t really see them at all, you only see a masked version of them as they loom above you attacking your teeth with metal tools, polish and floss.

I am certainly not fond of going to the dentist. Who is? But my experiences would be that much worse if it wasn’t for my dentist’s friendly dental assistants.

If you are unfamiliar with a dental assistant’s professional responsibilities, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers a great overview of dental assisting, such as the job outlook for dental assistants (excellent), and what kind of tasks dental assistants perform (clinical and/or administrative).

Overall, dental assistants play an important role in dental offices by providing clinical and administrative services to help support the dentist. According to the BLS, potential dental assistant tasks include:

Clinical Tasks

  • Sterilize and prepare patient trays
  • Hand instruments to the dentist
  • Take and process dental x-rays
  • Instruct patients on oral care and hygiene
  • Prepare materials for impressions and restorations

Administrative Tasks

  • Order supplies and monitor inventory
  • Record treatment information
  • Collect and record patient medical and dental histories
  • Schedule appointments
  • Bill patients and collect and record payments

Some dental assistants provide both clinical and administrative tasks, while others focus on one or the other. In terms of potential employment, the BLS expects employment for professionals with a dental assistant degree to grow rapidly—more than 35% by 2018.

This is all well and good, but what about what comes after training and finding a job? How can one take the dental assistant profession to the next level?

Benita Winrow, a 2009 Bryman School of Arizona graduate, is a great example of someone who has expanded her dental assisting training and career.  Winrow was hired at a Phoenix-area pediatric dental office within a week of completing her externship in the Dental Assistant Diploma program at Anthem College – Bryman School.

After only eight months in that dental assistant role, Winrow was promoted to back office manager and placed in charge of 16 assistants who worked in branch offices throughout the area. She also took on responsibility for equipment repairs, supply ordering, patient insurance, and all the duties that come along with management.

At the same time, Winrow returned to Bryman and enrolled in the Dental Assistant associate degree program to beef up her management skills. “I was in management, but I had no management skills, so pursuing my AA in Dental Sciences allowed me to get some management classes, including skills necessary for hiring,” she says. Winrow continued to work full-time while earning her degree, which she completed in 2011.

Clearly, Winrow exhibited hard work and dedication to her profession. Her willingness to return to school for more education (which her employer paid for by the way) , while taking care of her family and working full-time, clearly shows her desire to take her career to the next level.

With Winrow’s story in mind, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about what makes the best dental assistants. Indeed.com, a popular job search website, has a forum dedicated to this very topic. The title: Little Tips and Tricks to be the Best. After reading through the posts, there seemed to be a general consensus from the current dental assistants who posted that reliability and anticipating needs ahead of time help make a good dental assistant.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics further points out that a dental assistant acts as a dentist’s “second pair of hands.” As a result, “Dentists look for people who are reliable, work well with others, and have good manual dexterity.”

Are you looking for dental assisting training? Many Anthem Education schools and colleges offer diploma and/or associate degree programs for dental assistants. Visit our website to learn more about the Dental Assistant Program or call us at 1.866.502.2627.

Tell us: From what you’ve read so far about dental assistant tasks and responsibilities, what do you think would be the most important characteristic of a good dental assistant?

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