Dental assistants are valuable members of a dental practice because they help dentists provide quality oral healthcare.
Assistants perform many duties, though they vary based on employer, training, and state regulations. They include:
Clinical tasks – These tasks can include removing sutures, assisting the dentist chairside during examinations and procedures, constructing temporary bridges and crowns, sterilizing equipment, and taking x-rays.
Administrative tasks – Assistants may have to perform administrative duties depending on the size of the practice. These tasks include answering the telephone, billing patients, scheduling and confirming appointments, and maintaining inventory.
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reports the employment for dental assistants is projected to grow 25% from 2012 to 2022. This growth is a lot faster than the average for most other occupations, and means entry-level positions should be plentiful. There are two reasons why the need for dental assistants is on the rise. The first is research continues to link oral health with general health causing a rise in the demand for preventive dental services. Because of this, dentists will hire more dental assistants to handle routine tasks, allowing more patients to be seen on a daily basis. The other reason for the growth is that the elderly population is keeping more of their original teeth than people who lived in previous generations.
Salary of Dental Assistants
The Salary for dental assistants ranges from $24,220 to $48,350, and differs from state to state along with other factors. You will find the highest paying positions in:
- New Hampshire
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
Factors that Impact Salary
There are several factors that determine how much a dental assistant earns.
Geographic location – This is probably the largest factor in determining salary. Dental practices in major cities tend to pay higher wages than those in a country setting.
Duties – Employers often base pay on their employees’ duties. For example, a single dental assistant who is employed by a large dental practice is more likely to earn more than if she were one of many assistants who were splitting duties.
Training – It is usually easier for a well-trained dental assistant to find work. Therefore, higher salaries are offered to make a job opportunity more attractive to applicants.
Ways to Increase Your Salary
There are a few ways in which you can increase your earnings.
Relocate – Consider moving to one of the higher paying states.
Get a Higher Education – While you may only need a high school diploma or a certificate from a dental school (depending on your state’s guidelines) in order to work as a dental assistant, considering obtaining an associate degree. You can finish in two years if you attend classes full-time. The extra schooling usually leads to a higher salary.
Ask Your Employer – If you work for the same employer for a decent length of time and do not earn a raise, it doesn’t hurt to politely ask for one. Be prepared to explain why you deserve more money.
Get Certified – Even if state guidelines do not require you to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam administered by the Dental Assisting National Board, you should still take it. Not only can earning certification increase your wages, but certified assistants are typically in higher demand than those who are not certified. You can also obtain additional certification that may give you an even better earning potential. They are:
- Orthodontic Dental Assistant
- Preventive Functions Dental Assistant
- Restorative Functions Dental Assistant
You may also need to take the Radiation Health and Safety exam in order to take patient x-rays.
If you are considering a career in dental assisting, contact us to learn more about the dental field.