How long does it take to become a dental assistant

How to Become a Dental Assistant?

If you have already decided to pursue a career in the field of dentistry, do you know exactly what all is required when it comes to being a dental assistant (DA)? Whether you are a current student or simply considering the idea of enrolling in dental school, spend some time reading about the basic educational requirements, qualities, and job responsibilities as well as career outlook for this individual profession.

Once you have decided to make a change and pursue a career in dentistry, the next step is to research education and certification requirements, find out the job duties and become a registered dental assistant. This step can quickly become overwhelming, which is why it’s so important to have a guide and prepare yourself for all the opportunities and challenges coming your way on the journey of becoming a DA.

Educational Requirements

A dental assistant in Illinois may perform basic supportive dental procedures specified by the state dental practice act under the supervision of a licensed dentist. There are no formal education or training requirements for an initial level of dental assisting. Typically, the educational minimum prerequisite is a high school degree or equivalent like GED. However, with the expanded functions and roles, there are some educational requirements for dental aspirants which must be met and includes on-job training or a post secondary education. Dental assistants may also require certifications to improve their job prospects. 

A dental assistant training program entails both classroom education and laboratory work preparing students to excel at an entry level position and to gain hands-on experience to grow to other certified positions.  Such as: at Illinois Dental career, students learn dental care essentials, such as lab procedures, patient assessments, and administrative office tasks. While vocational training strongly emphasizes dental assisting, community college curricula also include general education classes like English or Math.

dental assistant course

How Long Will It Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

Going to school for dental assisting is a popular choice among those who want to enter this field but how long does it take to become a dental assistant purely depends on your wish, how skillful you want to become and how far you want to go in the field of dentistry. There are choices of being a high school graduate, OJT, postsecondary, and certifications.

High School – Finishing high school takes four years while completing a GED certificate takes about three months.

Post Secondary Education – These training programs normally take anywhere from a few months to two years, depending on your preference whether you want to obtain a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. The curriculum consists of both classroom lectures and hands-on training in a clinical setting. The coursework entails classes on oral anatomy, dental office administration, dental materials, and dental radiography.

On Job Training – on job- training depends on the dental office where you are practicing your dental assistant job. Because under the guidance of an experienced dental assistant, dental hygienist or dentist, a trainee learns dental terminology, names of instruments, daily tasks, scheduling appointments, filing patient records, interacting with patients, and other typical dental office activities.

Certification – Certification and licensing requirements can differ from state to state. Some states require dental assistants to be certified, so it is important for dental assistants to check with the dental board of the state in which they wish to work. If certification is needed, it is typically a Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification.

Job Duties of Dental Assistant

Dental assistants can enjoy doing a variety of administrative and clinical duties. Though the duties may vary from state to state but typically, their main responsibilities are:

  • To prepare the patient for their dental exam or procedure, 
  • Sterilize and disinfect instruments, 
  • Record treatment information, 
  • Take down medical and dental histories, 
  • Instruct patients in oral hygiene, 
  • Order dental supplies, 
  • Schedule appointments, and
  • Create orthodontic appliances.

Qualities of a Dental Assistant

Due to the broad skill set required for this profession, aspiring dental assistants ought to have the following qualities to become successful in their dental assistant careers.

  • Detail orientation
  • Finger and manual dexterity
  • Arm-hand steadiness
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Active listening skills
  • Service orientation
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Near vision
  • Organizational skills

How to Become a Certified Dental Assistant

In most states, an entry level job doesn’t require certification to start a dental career but a select number of states requires certification or registration to perform specific work responsibilities such as radiography, infection control or certain specialty areas. Certifications or Registrations can be beneficial when you are applying for jobs, as they communicate to employers that you meet industry standards and are qualified for the position. A professional industry credential may also lead to higher earnings and greater job responsibilities.

In order to become a certified dental assistant, you must one of the following three criteria to get a certificate issued by Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

how to become a dental assistant
  1. Graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting or dental hygiene program AND current CPR from a DANB-accepted provider.
  2. High school graduate or equivalent AND a minimum of 3,500 hours of approved work experience AND current CPR certification from a DANB-accepted provider.
  3. Former DANB CDA status or graduate from a CODA-accredited DDS or DMD program or graduate from a dental degree program outside the U.S. or Canada AND current CPR from a DANB-accepted provider.

While to become a registered dental assistant, you must be eligible for any of the following requirements to appear in the registered dental assistant exam.

  1. Graduate of or scheduled to graduate from an accredited dental assisting program.
  2. Graduate of a military dental assisting program AND a minimum of one year of dental assisting work experience.
  3. Employed as a dental assistant for a minimum of three years, with a recommendation from a current or former employer who is a dentist. Proof of high school graduation or educational equivalent.

Career Outlook for a Dental Assistant

As a dental assistant, you might assume that the only place you can work is at a dental office, but that’s not true at all! In fact, you may be able to find work at:

  • Specialty practices that focus on orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, or even oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Hospital dental clinics or health insurance coordinators
  • Public health offices
  • Dental office manager
  • Trainer at vocational schools, community colleges, universities where you can teach aspiring dental assistants
  • It’s also possible that you can work as a dental product sales representative.

Dental Assistant Course Near Me

Dental assisting is an optimal career choice for individuals who wish to work in a growing industry, interact with different people, and have varied job responsibilities. Illinois dental career training program offers a 10-week course schedule of 20 modules of 2.5 hours each and prepares students for entry-level dental assisting positions. If you are looking for a dental assistant course near you then contact our admissions staff, they will gladly help you, should you have any more questions about becoming a dental assistant you can email us at [email protected] or call (224) 246-2694.

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