The role of a dental assistant is to work closely under the supervision of the dentist, acting as the dentist's second pair of hands. They perform routine duties that allow the dentist to focus on more complex procedures, and perform tasks that include patient care, laboratory procedures, and other office functions.
Training and formal education is not a requirement, although most states regulate the duties dental assistants are allowed to perform. On-the-job training may be required for dental assistants, even for those who are certified. However without credentials other than a high school diploma, advancement opportunities are limited.
- Dental assistants can advance to office managers, dental-assisting instructors, or dental hygienists.
- Many dentists learn duties through on-the-job training, such as new dental terminology, instruments, and patient interaction.
- The job outlook for dental assistants is expected to grow 36 percent within the next 10 years.
- Some states require licensing to perform more complex dental procedures.
Dental assistants are provided hands-on training, and if desired, most dental-assisting programs take only one year to complete. In 2008, there were nearly 300,000 dental assistant jobs and the numbers will continue to grow. Due to a high demand for qualified assistants who are reliable and work well with others, jobs are expected to increase over the next ten years.
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