Becoming a Dental Hygenist - An Introduction

dental haygenist

dental haygenist

dental haygenist

  By Tom DeLauder 
Health careers are generally considered to be more stable jobs, and the dental hygenist profession is widely accepted to be one of the most recession-proof professions in America. If you're interested in becoming a respected health professional with a recession-proof career, becoming a dental hygenist could be one of the best decisions you'll make.

Dental hygenists are one of the fastest growing occupations in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hygienist earned $66,570 annually in 2008, and the field will enjoy a job growth of 36% by the year 2018. Members of the profession often work beside dentists in dental offices, and some have their own dental hygene practices. In addition, many work on a part-time or flexible schedule basis. Clearly, the profession offers stability, higher than average income and flexibility.
The primary responsibility of a dental hygenist is to ensure the hygiene of patients' teeth and gums by performing a wide variety of procedures, as well as educating them about teeth and gum hygiene and providing other preventive dental care. The procedures performed by a dental hygenist may include:
  • Cleaning plaque, stains, tartar and other residue buildup on teeth using rotary and ultrasonic devices
  • Diagnose dental health problems using radiological (x-ray) equipment and refer them to dentists for further treatment if necessary,
  • Apply cavity-preventing treatments such as fluorides and sealants,
  • Educate patients on various aspects of dental health and hygiene using charts, photos and models.

    dental hygenist

    dental hygenist

Now that we've covered the basic job responsibilities of a dental hygenist, it's time to talk about the educational requirements and qualifications necessary to become one. In many states, entering the profession requires a degree from an accredited dental hygiene school (In addition, some states such as Florida may allow foreign-trained dentists to work as hygienists. This is an appealing career option for foreign-trained dentists, who otherwise can not obtain jobs as dentists in the US due to ADA regulations and restrictions on foreign-trained dentists.) Such training programs usually take two years to complete, and entrance requirements usually include a high school diploma and college entrance test scores. Specific entrance requirements vary highly between programs, and we recommend visiting the Web sites of various schools for more information.
As of 2010, there were 313 accredited entry-level dental hygene education programs in the US. Most of these programs require successful completion of classes on general health-related science subjects such as anatomy, chemistry, histology, microbiology and nutrition; as well as classes specializing on dental health subjects such as periodontology (study of gum diseases), clinical dental hygiene, dental materials and dental radiology.
After successful completion of an accredited dental hygenist education program, dental hygenists must be licensed by the state where they would like to practice. Almost all US states require candidates to graduate from an accredited school and pass both a written and clinical examination. The written examination is administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations of ADA (American Dental Association).
The clinical examinations are usually administered by regional and state agencies, and some states might require additional written examinations as well. You can find more information on the national and state examinations on our certification information pages.
We hope you find this brief introduction useful in your path to becoming a dental hygenist!


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                                                                                                 Becoming a Dental Hygenist

 

Dental Assistants Provide Care to Low Income Families


Dental Assistants take pride in providing quality care to patients. They assist Dentists with procedures and Dental Hygienists with assistance during preventative cleanings. However, many Dental Assistants understand there is a population of individuals who do not receive the dental care they should because they have no insurance and they can’t afford to pay for it out of pocket. The result of not obtaining proper dental care is ongoing health and dental issues that spiral out of control.

Many low income families are not receiving dental care. Often, dental programs are available through a variety of programs including Child Development Services, Migrant Services, and Head Start. All of these programs are conducted throughout the United States. These programs provide schooling for children and parenting skills for parents. The programs often include programs of budgeting, meal planning, family activities, and dental care. These programs are Federally funded.

In these programs, children and their families receive dental care for free. This requires qualified Dental Assistants to assist Dentists and Dental Hygienists in their work of providing procedures and dental cleanings to patients in these programs. Since their dental care is limited, it is very important for them to become educated about oral hygiene. Education becomes a key for them to work hard to maintain quality dental hygiene on their own as much as they can.

Dental Assistants often conduct training workshops for these types of programs, stressing the importance oral hygiene. The programs include information on brushing twice a day, the proper way to brush, the importance of flossing, and the proper way to floss. Family members are generally given handouts as well as toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and pills that will show the plaque you missed on your teeth by turning the areas a bright color. These educational workshops are very helpful to the families involved in these programs.

For children and adults who have severe dental needs, this many be the only way they will ever be able to have those needs addressed. Dental Assistants who work with low income families often earn less than Dental Assistants in other dental fields of employment. However, they find a strong satisfaction in helping families obtain dental care. To them, it is more rewarding than any increase in pay.

The lack of programs to help with those who can’t afford adequate dental care is a huge concern for Dental Assistants all across the Nation. It is an issue that needs to be addressed locally, statewide, and on a Federal level. Many Dental professionals agree to assist with education and providing services to low income populations because they understand the dire need of such care.

While Medicare and Medicaid programs under Federal guidelines offer some relief for families, many don’t qualify for the programs, yet still don’t earn enough money to pay for the care on their own. In addition, most dental facilities don’t accept the Federal programs or they only accept a limited number of participants at a time.

The Surgeon General has only yet begun to conduct studies on the effects of low income families not receiving the dental care they need. However, they do agree that the issue needs to be addressed. They have implemented some strategies to improve the situation.

They would like to see the expansion of mobile dental clinics, public dental clinics, and school based dental clinics. They would also like to see schools and other educational programs focusing more on oral hygiene. Possibility adding toothbrushes and areas to each classroom for students to use after breakfast and lunch on a daily basis.

The Surgeon General is also looking into developing programs for dental staff, including Dental Assistants to receive assistance with tuition if they agree to work in low income dental facilities for a specified period of time. It is their hope that the staff will choose to remain their after that time period has ended because they see how beneficial their services are to the patients they are serving.

Dental Assistant Pay




Becoming a Dental Assistant not only prepares you for a wonderful career working in the dental field, is also pays very well. Since this area of employment is anticipated to be one of the most in demand over the next six years, your chances of securing a great job with great pay and benefits is very likely.




The Median hourly rate of pay for Dental Assistants is $13.62. This is well above the minimum wage established in most states. In addition to a great hourly wage, many Dental Assistants will receive bonuses if the dental office is doing well, health insurance, and discounted dental procedures. Almost all Dental Assistants receive paid vacation days, sick days, and paid Holidays.




However, earning such a high hourly wage comes with a great level of responsibility. Dental Assistants perform duties relating to patient care, office sanitation, lab duties, and assisting the dentist and hygienist with a variety of procedures. Dental Assistants need to be alert, pay attention to detail, and have effective communication skills. They must also be able to provide patients with comfort measures both before and after procedures are completed.




Dental Assistants are easily confused with Dental Hygienists. Compared to hygienists, who have a median rate of pay of $23.65 per hour, a Dental Assistant is not making a very good hourly wage. However, they are very different professions. A Dental Assistant does just that, assists the dentist and hygienist with providing the best quality care for all patients. A hygienist takes care of cleaning teeth and generally has a steady stream of patients who come in every six months for routine cleaning procedures.




The amount of pay a Dental Assistant earns depends on many factors. The cost of living in your area will be the greatest influence. The amount of revenue the dental office you work for generates will also be a deciding factor. New dentists might have to pay less than established dentists will clientele because they don’t have the traffic coming into the office. However, it is very possible your pay will increase as more patients are drawn to that dental office.




Your level of experience will also be a consideration. You may have to accept a position that pays less than average to get your foot in the door and gain some hands on experience. However, with the demand for Dental Assistants, you should have no problem securing employment. Many dental offices want to keep quality Dental Assistants. They may offer to start you at a lower entry level pay, with the understanding that your performance will be reviewed in 90 days or other time frame. Based on your performance, you pay will be adjusted at that time.




It is important to understand that certified and uncertified Dental Assistants complete the same types of tasks. However, those who are certified earn several dollars more per hour than those who aren’t certified. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to take the certification exam early on in your career as a Dental Assistant.

Certified Dental Assistant Requirements




Completing a Dental Assistant program can be the opportunity to explore a wonderful career in the field of dentistry. While most states don’t require licensing, obtaining your certification as a Dental Assistant will give you and edge over the competition. This will allow you to have a wide selection of employment opportunities to choose from. Most Dental Assistants with a certificate find that they are paid more for their work than those Dental Assistants who have not obtained licensing.





The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. set the standards for the Certified Dental Assistant, known as CDA. The CDA exam is composed of three parts. The General Chairside is a written test composed of 120 multiple choice questions. The questions are based on basic Dental Assistant fundamentals. The Infection Control segment is also a written portion. It is composed of 100 multiple choice questions relating to information on various diseases, the risks, and prevention methods. The last portion of the exam is the Health and Safety portion. This is a 100 question multiple choice section that is basically common sense related. Some Nursing Assistants choose to take the Certified Dental Assistant portion as well. This is a 210 question multiple choice section.





To prepare for the CDA, review your text book and notes from your Dental Assistant program. It is a good idea to purchase a CDA study guide. You can form a study group with other students who will be taking the CDA exam. The internet also has many free practice tests available. The exam is given in either a written form or computerized form. Nursing Assistant can choose the method they are most comfortable with.





To ensure you do the best possible on the CDA test, consider scheduling it immediately after you have completed your Dental Assistant Program. This is a great time to do it because all of the information is still fresh in your mind. You are also still in learning mode, so you should not suffer too much from test anxiety. Those who test right after completing their Dental Assistant program score better on the test. The longer you wait, they lower your score is likely to be. It is also less likely you will take the test once you have secured employment as a Dental Assistant.





In some states, Dental Assistants who have obtained the certification can perform various dental procedures. This definitely makes you a greater asset to the dental facility you work for if your state offers this statute. This will also encourage employers in these states to hire you over other Dental Assistants who are not certified. You will be worth more to the employer, so you will likely be offered more pay and better benefits.





For Dental Assistants, the decision to take the CDA is theirs to make. Since licensing is not a requirement, then many choose not to go through the test of taking another exam. However, there is nothing to lose because if you don’t pass the test you are still qualified to be a Dental Assistant upon completion of your program. However, the benefits of having an edge over the competition as well as the additional pay for the same type of work are encouraging to proceed with taking the CDA.





CDA exams vary in cost by state. They are generally held monthly. You can obtain a schedule of CDA exams from your program instructor, your State Dental Board, or from The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. They can also refer you to the best materials to study for the CDA test based on the requirements of your state.


Why You Should Become a Dental Assistant




Becoming a Dental Assistant offers you a great career working with people. You will generally be working under one or more dentists. This type of career will allow you to interact with many people as well as get to see various dental procedures take place first hand. This profession allows you the opportunity to participate in providing dental care as well as comfort to patients.





Dental Assistants are often confused with Dental Hygienist. They perform different dental procedures. Dental Assistants help both dentists and hygienist. A Dental Hygienist cleans patient’s teeth while the dentist performs procedures including fillings and bridges.





Dental Assistants are in huge demand all over the Nation. It is anticipated that Dental Assistants will be among the fastest growing occupations between now and 2012. This means you will have job opportunities available most anywhere you choose to live. The pay for Dental Assistants varies by region, but is generally several dollars above minimum wage. Being a Dental Assistant will allow you to decide if you want to pursue a career as a tech, dental hygienist, or a dentist. You will get to see first hand just what such jobs entail.





Employment as a Dental Assistant will help guarantee you job with normal hours of operation. This is very important, especially if you have a family you want to be spending your evenings and weekends with. In addition, you will generally have paid Holidays off as well. Most Dental Assistants receive a large discount on dental care for themselves, their spouse, and their children. This can be a great perk of the job that saves you a large sum of money in the end.





Some of the duties Dental Assistants will perform include assisting with dental procedures, setting up dental rooms, performing X-rays, and completing lab work. The exact procedures you will be able to perform will depend on the licensing requirements in your state as well as the needs of the dental office you choose to work in. It is important to ask what procedures you will be performing during a job interview if a complete job description is not provided for you.





If you enjoy working with people, having a daily routine that varies, and have excellent communication skills, then a career as a Dental Assistant might be right for you. Since you will be dealing with the public and other dental professionals throughout your day, the ability to communicate is going to make a big impact on how successful you will be as a Dental Assistant.





Generally, the certification program for Dental Assistant is 1 year. The exact length of the program depends on your state requirements and the program you are enrolling in. In some states, you can be trained on the job in as little as three months. Most states require you to pass a Dental Assistant Exam for certification.





Since technology and dental procedures continually improve, you will need to keep up with these changes as a Dental Assistant. Generally, such educational needs and trainings will be set up by your employer for you to attend at no charge.





Becoming a Dental Assistant can be a fun and rewarding career for individuals with a desire to help others, provide comfort, and who has excellent communication skills. The amount of employment opportunities in the field are numerous, with the numbers continuing to climb as more and more people focus on the importance of good oral hygiene.


Dental Assistant Emergency Care




The role of Dental Assistant involves being able to perform a variety of duties. It also requires being detail oriented, alert, and able to react calmly and quickly in emergency situations. A Dental Assistant observes all dental procedures, assisting both Dentists and Dental Hygienists to perform quality procedures for all patients.





While most dental procedures are routine and take place without incident, emergency situations do take place. Eliminating short cuts for procedures and staying alert with the focus on the needs of the patient will help prevent emergencies from occurring. Planning and preparation can help Dental Assistants be able to resolve issues and remedy emergency situations with positive results for all involved.





People have been known to stop breathing during dental procedures or have allergic reactions to local anesthetics. During such a situation, it is vital that Dental Assistants are properly trained in how to assist. It is recommended that Dental Assistants know how to perform CPR. Some dental facilities require monitoring of a patient’s vital signs to help them monitor for any side effects or other issues.





Another incident that can take place in a dental facility is accidentally swallowing something, causing the patient to choke. A patient can choke on dental equipment, tools, extracted teeth, or other materials. Since most procedures are done under anesthesia, the patient may not be able to control reflexes to push the object away from the throat. Dental Assistants must know how to quickly react to prevent serious injury or death from occurring.





Likewise, objects including dental tools, extractions, and other materials might be dropped or ricochet, landing in the eye of a patient. Eye wash stations are generally available in dental facilities. Dental Assistants need to make sure they are familiar with how they work and where they are located in the facility.





On occasion, a patient may suffer from other health issues not related to their dental procedures. These health issues may include a heart attack, stroke, or blood clot. Therefore, it is important for Dental Assistants to be trained in basic medical issues as well as those that relate to dental procedures.





There are other types of emergency situations that can occur in a dental facility that Dental Assistants can help with. In the event of a fire, quickly remove all patients from the building. This needs to be done keeping everyone as calm and comfortable as possible.





During an emergency in the dental facility, patients should not be left alone under any circumstances. Dental Assistants and other staff members have a duty to the patient to administer quality emergency services until the proper medical response team arrives to take over. It is important for the Dental Assistant to be able to inform the medical response team of the changes the patient exhibited as well as documentation of everything that took place prior to the event. This information can help medical response teams pinpoint the issue faster and provide adequate medical care.





Since medical emergencies don’t often occur in dental facilities, is important for staff to have regular meetings and reminders about the proper procedures in the event an emergency does take place. Practice drills are a great way to keep the policies and procedures fresh in the mind of all staff members. It is important to post phone numbers of all emergency agencies in several locations where all staff can easily access the information. However, it is not recommended the information be posted where patients can see it. For those who are already nervous about coming in for a procedure, seeing that information is not going to easy their level of anxiety. Being prepared for such emergencies will make a difference in the outcomes.





Dental Assistants need to address the issue of emergency care at the start of their employment. If no such policies and procedures are in place, encourage your employer to establish them. It only takes one incident of a medical emergency taking place for a dental facility to be sued. If they are found to be negligent it could result in charges being filed or the business having to close down. Protecting your job and the business you work for as well as providing quality procedures for all patients will ensure job security.


Support for Dental Assistants




Dental Assistants can find themselves easily overwhelmed with the level of responsibility they have and the many duties of their job. Since they work hard to meet all of these requirements, it is no wonder they can find themselves stressed out and needing someone to talk to. It is always easier to talk to those who know exactly what you are talking about. The medical and dental professions are known for taking enthusiastic qualified individuals and squeezing the very life out of them will took much be asked of them on a daily basis.





Dental Assistant support groups are not meant to be an arena to negativity to breed and escalate. It is to provide Dental Assistants with social interactions with others in the field who are experiencing the same types of things in their employment endeavors as well. Too often, individuals in the dental field are their own worst enemy. They demand too much of themselves. Being part of a Dental Assistant support group will help you set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.





Dental Assistant support groups can be formed of your co-workers if you work in a fairly large dental facility. If not, consider advertising for Dental Assistants from other facilities to get together and form a group. This can offer valuable insight as to how other organizations deal with issues that you are experiencing in your role as a Dental Assistant. Most dental facilities will support your endeavors as they understand the restraints of the Dental Assistant field. You may also want to open the group up to those interested in pursing a career as a Dental Assistant, those in a Dental Assistant program, and those who have retired from a career as a Dental Assistant. Each can offer unique perspectives on the dental field of being a Dental Assistant.





Often, each dental facility can take a turn hosting the meeting. Another option is to get a



Church or library to allow you to meet in their facility free of charge. You can host meetings once a week, every other week, or monthly depending on how in depth you want your support group to be.





Another great option is to join a support group online. You can stay anonymous, as well as interact from the comfort of your home. Most online support groups for Dental Assistants are free of charge and hosted by dental organizations. They offer tips, advice, online magazines, chat rooms, and message boards. All available at your fingertips with the touch of a few simple keys. These are an excellent source of support for those not wanting to put effort and time into organizing a Dental Assistant support group.





A career as a Dental Assistant can proof to be challenging. To avoid burnout and the effects of stress, consider joining a Dental Assistant support group. It can be a wonderful opportunity to meet new people in the field, gain information, share your experiences, and just get some needed support from those who know best what your experiences are on a daily basis in your role as a Dental Assistant.





Support groups are known to offer social interactions, stress relief, and friendships. Having a support group for Dental Assistants is no different. To make sure your support group is effective, set some ground rules. The support group is to stay positive. It is available to discuss problems, but not just as a complaint mechanism. The goal needs to be to offer support and solutions to the issues Dental Assistants are experiencing. You will also want to keep your meetings set on a regular day and time. An agenda will also prove to be useful as is a newsletter. Just make sure to get plenty of help with organizing the details or the support group can overwhelm you. Ironically, that will result in your career as a Dental Assistant proving to be even more stressful for you!


Duties of Dental Assistants

Dental Assistants are very versatile. They are well trained in a variety of areas to properly assist Dentists and Hygienists perform quality dental work on all individuals. The duties will depend on the state regulations, the type of dental facility, and how that particular facility has their operations set up. Often the smaller the dental facility, the more types of duties the Dental Assistant will be trained in.

Typical Dental Assistant tasks include sterilizing instruments and setting up instrument trays. The proper cleansing and sterilizing of dental instruments is a detrimental part of providing quality service to all patients. Instrument trays are set up with the proper tools and equipment that can possibly be needed for a particular dental procedure. Dental Assistants get these materials together and in the area where the procedure will take place. This helps things run smoothly and allows the Dentist or Hygienist to remain focused on the procedure. It eliminates searching for each item as it is needed.

Dental Assistants often remain with the dentist or Hygienist during the procedures. They are responsible for suction and for handing the instruments to the other staff throughout the procedures. They are also there to offer instant assistance if an emergency arises during the procedure. In some dental facilities, the Dental Assistant will monitor the vital signs of all patients as well as administer local anesthetics.

Dental Assistants often help to make patients feel comfortable before, during, and after their procedures. They can offer a king word, help adjust lighting and chair position, and provide the patient with follow up information to care for their procedures. Dental Assistants are often asked to make phone calls and follow up on the recovery process for some patients after major procedures including root canals, bridges, and extractions.

It is common for Dental Assistants to perform X-rays and other lab procedures including castings for caps and bridges. They often talk to patients about their medical history and any types of communicable diseases. They discuss proper care after procedures to ensure patients do all they can to allow their procedures to heal properly. They may even call in prescriptions as a courtesy to patients.

Dental Assistants are trained in emergency procedures. While it is unlikely anything will go wrong in the dental office, occasionally it does. Some individuals suffer from an allergic reaction to the anesthetic and require medical attention. Others may swallow something and choke during a procedure. Other times a patient may stop breathing. Knowing CPR and properly monitoring vital signs are all valuable in a crisis situation in the medical facility.

As you can see, Dental Assistants are often trained in a wide variety of processes and procedures. This will help ensure they keep busy as well as add variety to their daily routine in the workplace. Dental Assistants must learn quickly as well as pay attention to details. Their role is very important to the overall functioning of the entire dental facility.

The duties of a Dental Assistant are constantly changing depending on the needs of the patients and changes in technology. It is important that Dental Assistants keep up on such changes. Often, their employer will require them to attend trainings, workshops, and seminars to keep up with all the changes and brush up in any areas necessary to provide the best possible services.

Dental Assistant Program Acceptance




Dental Assistant is one of the fastest growing professions. It is anticipated to be one of the top occupations by 2012. Almost all Dental Assistant programs require applicants to successfully pass a background check prior to acceptance. In addition, drug testing is becoming a widely common practice as well. Most states require students to be tested for Hepatitis B prior to acceptance as well.





Many programs want to look at your work history, education level, and GPA. All of these factors combined will determine if you are accepted into a Dental Assistant Program. You will get a letter informing you of the decision. If you are not accepted into the Dental Assistant Program, you have the right to inquire as to the information that decision was based on.





The reason for background checks for Dental Assistants is because of the number of people they come into contact with. Since they serve the public, their background becomes an area of concern. Safety is a top priority in the dental field. Precautions are taken protect patients as well as other staff.





The background process is very similar in all states. You will be required to provide your personal information and fingerprints. All information that comes back will be reported to the program director. Each state has different levels of acceptable background checks for the Dental Assistant Program.





If you believe your background might prevent you from being accepted into a Dental Assistant Program, ask the instructor or the State Dental Board what the regulations are for your particular state. In some states, they will only look at background information that is less than seven years old. Others will only ban you from the Dental Assistant program if you have been convicted of a crime that involved violence or was of a sexual nature. Other states are very strict. If you have any felony convicts at all, you will not be accepted to the Dental Assistant program. They also will look at misdemeanors including harassment and domestic violence.





Background checks are an ongoing issue with Dental Assistants. You can complete the training program and your license. Your license will be valid for three to five years depending on the state you live in. Upon renewal, another background check will be completed. You can lose your license and your career if you have had any criminal activity during your licensing period. Again, it depends on the regulations for your state.



Since state regulations vary, keep that in mind when considering transferring your Dental Assistant license to another state.





Drug testing regulations have come into play to provide safety for patients and other staff. Drug convictions will generally result in you not being admitted to the Dental Assistant program. It is believed the drugs will impair your ability to perform your job duties in the manner they must be done in. Also, since drugs are available on site of dental facilities, it is possible you will take them.





Hepatitis B is a concern in the dental profession. All individuals wanting to enroll in the Dental Assistant program will be required to be tested. They test requires a quick skin prick on the top of your hand. The results are generally available within a couple of days.





Depending on the Dental Assistant program you are trying to get into, they will require a background check, drug test, and Hepatitis B test. If there is a large demand to enroll in the course your work history, education, and GPA may also be taken into consideration if more people what to enroll than there are slots available.





Being a Dental Assistant is an opportunity to provide assistance to people as well as participate in the practices of the dental field. It also requires accepting responsibly for your actions. Dental Assistants have to be very responsible. It is believed you decisions in your personal life often reflect the choices you will make in your personal life.


Dental Assistants in Orthodontics

Dental Assistants are becoming more and more popular in the area of orthodontics. This is due to new technology for orthodontics as well as the increase in the number of children and adults seeking orthodontic care. Dental Assistants normally complete a variety of duties including sterilizing dental tools and assisting both Dentists and Hygienist with procedures. This generally entails sitting in on such procedures, handing the staff the necessary tools and equipment as the procedure it taking place. Dental Assistants may also find themselves assisting with lab work.

The role of Dental Assistant in the area of Orthodontics is different. They will generally still be responsible for sterilizing all dental tools. However, they will have more hands on work inside the mouth of the patient. These tasks include fixing loose brackets, changing rubber bands, and tightening wires. Many Dental Assistants love working in orthodontics because of the hands on work they get to do with the patient. They also enjoy getting to see the patient every few weeks from the beginning of the process until the end. Generally individuals wear braces for two years or longer.

Being a Dental Assistant in an orthodontic setting is not something that is commonly taught in a Dental Assistant program. It is a specific area of specialization, and most Dental Assistant programs are designed to give you an understanding of the basic elements of dentistry only.

Most training for Dental Assistants in the area of orthodontics takes place on the job. Generally, by having another Dental Assistant walk you through the process, then watching you perform it on actual patients. This can be intimidating for some Dental Assistants as they are used to learning by observing in the dental field rather than taking on the task at hand. Other Dental Assistants thrive in this type of learning environment, enabling them to really excel in the orthodontic field.

With the use of Dental Assistants, many orthodontic offices are meeting the demand for treatment in a very unique way. Dental Assistants are set up to specialize in a particular area of the orthodontic process. Many patients are scheduled for the same appointment time, and then dispersed to various dental assistants depending on their needs.

For example, one such dental facility has all patients sign in to see the Orthodontist first. He quickly reviews their progress, documents the chart, and puts the chart into a file on the wall. Dental Assistants come here to pull the charts of those in their slot on the wall. There are Dental Assistants to take X-Rays and to make adjustments. These adjustments include adjusting wires and changing rubber bands. Other Dental Assistants perform repairs including changing brackets and removing excess cement on the teeth. There are also Dental Assistants to remove the braces and others to take the molds for retainers.

Once the patient has seen the necessary Dental Assistant based on the needs that should be addressed during that visit, the patient is taken back to the area where they first signed in. They again see the dentist who reviews the work completed by the Dental Assistant. The Dentist will record necessary notes on the chart including when the patient should be seen again. The patient then takes their chart to the reception area, schedules an appointment, and they are on their way. This method has proven to be fast and effective. It is well organized, like worker ants doing their part to make it all flow well.

The advantage to this type of system is that more patients can be seen on a daily basis. Therefore, the cost of treatment is often reduced. However, patients will find themselves seen by numerous Dental Assistants over the course of their treatment. Many Dental Assistants enjoy working in the area of orthodontics. They like the hands on interaction with the patients as well as providing quality care to those in need of orthodontic procedures.

Dental Assistant Relationships with other Staff




Having a career as a dental assistant is a great opportunity to work with others in the dental profession. The most common staff you will work with in a dental facility are Dentists, Dental Hygienists, and the Receptionist. It is very important that you forge quality relationships with the other staff you work with. The smaller the dental facility, the more important it is as everyone will have to work well together to allow the facility to function properly.





Since you will be present for the procedures conducted by Dentists and Hygienists, patients will quickly pick up on any staffing issues. I went to a dentist for years. He was great to me and my children. However, he continually was impatient with his staff, especially the Dental Assistants. We went for cleanings every six months. We loved the Dental Hygienist. However, she was often in tears over is behaviors. We also noticed that the Dental Assistant staff changed almost every time we came in. It didn’t take too many years before he went out of business because patients were tired of seeing the behaviors and he couldn’t find help that would work for him.





Communication skills are a great asset for any profession, but as a Dental Assistant it is a must. You will be interacting with patients, staff, insurance companies, and family members of patients. It is very important you are able to make everyone feel comfortable and that you convey the message that you are approachable. Poor communication skills can result in your career as a Dental Assistant not working out for the long haul.





To ensure proper communication among staff members, dental facilities need to arrange trainings. These should be informative, explaining to everyone what is expected as far as interoffice relationships. It should be clearly stated that lack of respect for co-workers will not be tolerated. Policies and procedures should also be in place for employers to resolve any conflicts with other employers. Everyone should know where they are to report and such issues that they can’t work out with the other staff member or members.





Many dental facilities require staff members to attend communication workshops. These are often very fun and interactive workshops, showing more effective methods of communication. They generally include information on individual communication as well as group efforts. These workshops are conducted by individuals who customize the workshop to meet the needs of your group. This makes the sitting more intimate and usable in your dental facility.





To help alleviate stress and issues among co-workers, each staff member should be made aware of what other staff members are responsible for. Many inter-office struggles are the result of workers believing others are not carrying the same weight. Most employees complete tasks behind the scenes, so this assumption is based only on what is being seen on the front lines.





Effective communication is essential in the role of Dental Assistant. It is imperative to your career that you understand various communication styles. It is also very important that you are aware of your own communication style. You want others to view you as enthusiastic about your job and willing to assist in anyway possible.





Effective communication doesn’t mean that you let other staff members take advantage of you or belittle you. It simply means being able to put forth your best efforts to work well with others. You are all committed to providing patients with quality care. This can’t be accomplished if you have issues of communication standing in the way.





Most issues that arise from communication is assuming you know what the other person means or what they will say. Make sure that you reflect back what is being said to you by other staff members. This way any misconceptions can be resolved up front before they escalate into major issues that affect everyone’s work performance. Since we all spend so many hours at our place of employment, it is very important to make it a comfortable place to be.


Dental Assistant Licensing Requirements




Licensing Requirements for Dental Assistants vary by state. In some states you don’t even have to be licensed, only show that you have completed a Dental Assistant course of on the job training. If your particular state offers a licensing option, it is to your advantage to obtain licensing as you will have a better chance of being hired over those who aren’t licensed. In general, you can also expect to be paid more than those who are qualified, yet not licensed. There are not Federal Guidelines in regards to Dental Assistant licensing. Everything takes place on the state level.





The Dental Assistant licensing exam is often referred to as DAT, short for Dental Admission Test. The test may be complied of basic information including tools used in dental offices, procedures, safety, and technology. Many states require you to complete procedures you will actually use in a dental office for an examiner. This will likely include showing your skills on safety and proper cleansing of tools.





Most Dental Assistant programs and on the job training programs are well aware of the licensing requirements in your state. The programs are customized to meet all those requirements and help prepare you for both the written and procedural portions of the exam. They can also assist you in finding out when the exam will be conducted in your area.





Regardless if licensing is required in your state or not, not employers require Dental Assistants to complete a background check prior to starting employment. This is for the safety and protection of the patients as well as the staff. If you have a criminal background, it may prevent you from being able to work as a Dental Assistant in some states. In others, you will only be barred if the crime was sexual in nature or violent in nature. Still yet, other states only prevent you from being hired as a Dental Assistant if you have a felony conviction in the past seven years.





If you think your background check will be a factor in gaining employment as a Dental Assistant, it is very important to check into the state requirements prior to enrolling in and completing a program. It is not advised to lie on your application either as almost all dentist offices will conduct a thorough background check on all individuals they are considering offering employment to.





Most Dental Assistant licenses are valid for a certain length of time. Generally three to five years. As your renewal comes due, you will be sent a questionnaire from your State Medical Board. It will ask you questions pertaining to your employment, about any convictions or pending issues that have taken place. Keep in mind that your Dental Assistant license can be revoked if the information you place on the renewal is found to be inaccurate or if you have been involved in criminal activity during the licensing period.





It is very important that you understand Dental Assistant licensing requirements vary greatly from state to state. Therefore, if you are planning to move to another state make sure you can transfer your license to that state. You will be able to if your license is in good standing and the State Dental Board is not investigating any complaints about you. The state you are transferring your license to must have the same level of requirements or less. It the new state requirements are more than you have, then you will need to obtain the missing skills or classes in order to obtain a license.





Licensing as a Dental Assistant can help you have an edge on the completion for that great job you want. It also implies to patients that you are qualified to be working in a dental office and meeting their dental needs. It can also increase your level of pay in some states where licensing is available but not required. You can obtain information about licensing exams in your area from the State Dental Board or you course instructor. The exam is generally written and procedural.