Dental Assistant: A Look At The Skills and Qualities Required and Advancement Opportunities Available

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Necessary Skills and Qualities 

Dental assistants need to be alert, detail oriented and able to understand and follow directions from the dentist or hygienist. A patient’s safety depends on the ability to follow specific rules and protocols closely.

Organisational skills are also a must as in this role you will need to have all tools and materials laid out for the dentist or hygienist before a procedure begins. This may involve preparing certain materials beforehand as well as making sure all the required tools are sterilised.

As a dental assistant you must be a good communicator. A pleasant, soothing personality will make it easier for you to establish rapport with patients who are anxious or in pain.

Opportunities for Advancement

Working as a dental assistant is an excellent way to learn about more advanced dental professions before committing to a more rigorous educational programme. With some experience and completion of an advanced educational course, you could go on to become a dental hygienist, dentist or nurse. Alternatively, you could also choose to remain a dental assistant while focusing on a specialty area such as paediatric dentistry, orthodontics, geriatric dentistry or hospital practice.

Advancement is also possible beyond clinical practice with insurance companies or dental products companies. Insurance companies often hire assistants for processing dental claims whereas dental product companies hire assistants as sales representatives. Both of these are highly lucrative careers for those who are interested in staying in the dental field but would like to move away from clinical practice.

Experienced dental assistants are hired by educational institutions as well as dentists’ offices to train entry-level professionals.

Salaries vary with education level, experience, responsibilities and geographic location. Certified and licensed dental assistants with a few years experience under the belt as well as those who are qualified to perform advanced patient care tasks such as cleanings, X-rays and fluoride treatments, are generally the highest earners in this profession.

With more people seeking dental care today than ever before, the job outlook for dental assistants is excellent for the foreseeable future with an estimated 25 % growth between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the average for all professions.

Increased public awareness is one of the primary reasons for this growing demand. More and more people today are making the connection between good oral health and overall health. This leads individuals to seek regular dental care to prevent oral problems and to continue that preventative care all through their lives.

The increasing elderly population is another major contributory factor. The advances that have been made in dental care in recent years allow older people to keep their natural teeth longer – often for their entire lives. As members of the Baby Boomer generation enter their 60s, 70s and beyond, the demand for regular preventative and restorative dental services is expected to swell, marking an increasing demand for dental professionals across all specialties. 

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