Dental assistants are responsible for the clinical function of the practice both directly and indirectly assisting the doctor. Some of the tasks that a dental assistant may be required to perform:
- Prepare, disinfect and sterilize instruments, handpieces and cassettes.
- Organize and set up instrument trays, cassettes and materials and prepare the dental operatory for the procedures about to be completed.
- Directly assist the doctor during treatment keeping mouths dry and clear and passing instruments or materials at the right time to keep the doctor focused on the procedure.
- Expose diagnostic dental radiographs, or x-rays.
- Record and organize treatment information in patient records.
- Gather and record both dental and medical histories and vital signs of patients.
- Provide postoperative instructions prescribed by the dentist or hygienist.
- Assist in the management of medical and dental emergencies.
- Pour, trim, mount and polish study casts.
- Instruct patients in oral hygiene.
- Make preliminary molds and bite registrations for study casts
- Clean and polish removable appliances
Most importantly, a great dental assistant keeps patients comfortable both before and during procedures. Many patients are afraid or distressed when they come to the office. Dental assistants are the first face a patient may see upon entering the clinical area and the last person to see them off once their dental treatment is completed. Not only will you find that dental assistants have technical challenges, but they must be friendly, polite and people-oriented as well.
In North Carolina, dental assistants are classified as DA Level 1 or DA Level 2. The PDF below outlines the differences between the two and how to obtain certification for each level.
Dental Assistant Wages
Dental assistants earn good money while working in a clean, well-lighted environment with good hours. The national average for dental assistant wages is between $13.45 and $27.37 an hour depending on skills and certifications. Dental assistants with several years of experience and expanded skills can earn over $27.00 an hour. In Charlotte, where the current demand is high, salaries are above average.
You should know and understand that regardless of whether you decide to take an accelerated course or a year long course, dental assistant wages are dependent on your chairside experience, speed and efficiency. Though some people will tell you that you will make more after graduating from a degree program, the reality is that your level of actual clinical experience will determine your starting wages. In both cases, you should anticipate that you will be seeking an entry level position. As you gain experience and value to your team, wages rise accordingly.
Dental Assisting Job Outlook
The Department of Labor puts together statistics each year about different careers. The current report states that job prospects for dental assistants should be excellent. Throughout the whole country, employment for dental assistants is expected to grow over 7%. This is much faster than most occupations – in fact – dental assisting will be one of the fastest growing occupations from 2019-2029. North Carolina, because of its high growth, is even better!
CLICK BELOW for the latest Department of Labor outlook report for dental assistants.