By Gladys Mae
Gladys is the Associate Director of Admissions & Student Services with over 10 years of experience at the International Career Institute.
In the current job market, career paths that are stable, provide good income, are essential services (and therefore not likely to see a decline in customers) and offer a clear career path are greatly in-demand. With the overall jobs market in a state of flux and uncertainty, starting a career in health care is a way to check off all of those boxes.
Of course, the healthcare industry is one in which qualifications are incredibly important, and the perception is that getting those qualifications is time consuming and expensive. That’s why the role of the dental assistant is seeing a spike in interest, as a stepping stone into a long and healthy career in dentistry.
A dental assistant has a varied job. They’ll review the day’s schedule at a practice, prepare rooms for procedures, assist the dentist with X-rays and laboratory tests, and ensure that patients are looked after and comfortable when they arrive for their procedure. They will also assist with procedures with handing the dentist the right instruments, and manipulating the suction hose, where necessary, to keep the patient’s mouth dry.
Typically, after a procedure, the dental assistant will be the one to provide the patient with the debrief, answering their questions and providing them with the instructions they need for post-procedure care.
As befits the broad scope of the job, dental assistants need a wide range of personal and professional skills. It’s important to be detail-orientated, have strong communication skills, and be active, as the environment will be a hands-on one. It’s also important to recognise that a trip to the dentist is rarely a comfortable one for patients, and have the empathy and skills to be able create a calming environment.
A dental assistant can expect to make around $60,000 per year, ranging from $53,000 to $71,000, depending on experience and qualifications. It’s a job area where almost 50 per cent (46 per cent) are employed full-time for an average 40 hours per week, which in this environment represents a stability that those in many other job fields can only dream of. There’s also expected strong growth in the sector, having lifted from 17,100 in 2014 to 31,900 in 2019, and demand continues to grow.
Dental assistants also enjoy strong career path opportunities, which can extend beyond the realm of dentistry. An experienced dental assistant might be promoted to office manager or supervisor, or become the administrator of a new practice that they might set up with a dentist. Otherwise, the eye for detail and understanding of technical terminology leads many dental assistants into insurance claims processing, or they might use their understanding of dentistry and their people skills to enter sales. Those that end up selling dental products as a sales representative can enjoy highly lucrative careers.
The other great benefit of being a dental assistant is that it can open doors for further training and opportunities. Being involved in the medical industry, for example, can allow you to continue studying while also getting to work more quickly. With a Diploma in dental assistance takes 24 weeks to complete, professionals can get to work quickly while taking additional courses to help them move further up the qualifications chain.
Technically, you don’t need qualifications to be a dental assistant, however, in practice dental practices will be looking for a candidate that has earned a Diploma in the field.
Career focused, distance education programs. Explore your opportunities for Dental Assistant courses here to find your next course.
Such a Diploma is wide ranging and will equip you with the various elements of the dental assistant’s typical day. These include:
Once you’ve got your qualifications, the next step is to get a foot in the door. Any dental practice will be looking for a team player, someone interested in staying sharp with continual improvement, has excellent communication skills, and is proactive about their work and careers. While there is an increasing need for dental assistants, it remains a competitive field, and obtaining one of those full-time positions relies on a combination of finding the right place to work, drive, and passion.
Being a dental assistance provides enthusiastic and hard-working young professionals with the opportunity to work in a highly varied environment, with good job stability and strong job prospects. For many, this is an ideal first step into the medical industry, and with ICI you can take that step into the dental field and do so in your own time, learning at your own speed.