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Become A Surgical Dental Assistant

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Working As A Surgical Dental Assistant

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Getting Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $68,145

    Average Salary

What Does A Surgical Dental Assistant Do

Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work. 

Duties

Dental assistants typically do the following:

  • Ensure that patients are comfortable in the dental chair
  • Prepare patients and the work area for treatments and procedures
  • Sterilize dental instruments
  • Help dentists by handing them instruments during procedures
  • Keep patients’ mouths dry by using suction hoses and other equipment
  • Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
  • Process x rays and complete lab tasks, under the direction of a dentist
  • Keep records of dental treatments
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Work with patients on billing and payment

Assistants who perform lab tasks, such as taking impressions of a patient’s teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. They may prepare materials for dental impressions or to create temporary crowns.

All dental assistants complete certain tasks, such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records. Dental assistants are allowed to perform the following procedures in some states:

  • Coronal polishing
  • Sealant application
  • Fluoride application
  • Topical anesthetic application

Coronal polishing, which means removing soft deposits such as plaque, gives teeth a cleaner appearance. In sealant application, a dental assistant paints a thin, plastic substance over teeth that seals out food particles and acid-producing bacteria to keep teeth from developing cavities. Fluoride application, in which fluoride is put directly on the teeth, is another anticavity measure. Some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of a patient’s mouth, temporarily numbing the area to help prepare a patient for procedures.

Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants.

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How To Become A Surgical Dental Assistant

There are several possible paths to becoming a dental assistant. Some states require assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. In other states, there are no formal educational requirements.

Education

Some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. Most programs are offered by community colleges, although they also may be offered by vocational or technical schools. Most programs take about 1 year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Programs that last 2 years are less common and lead to an associate’s degree. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), part of the American Dental Association, accredited nearly 300 dental assisting training programs in 2015.

Accredited programs include classroom and laboratory work in which students learn about teeth, gums, jaws, and other areas that dentists work on and the instruments that dentists use. These programs also include supervised practical experience.

High school students interested in a career as a dental assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

Training

Dental assistants who do not have formal education in dental assisting may learn their duties through on-the-job training. A dental assistant or dentist in the office teaches the new assistant dental terminology, the names of the instruments, how to complete daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other activities necessary to help keep the dental office running smoothly.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Dental assistants must follow specific rules and protocols, such as infection control procedures, when helping dentists treat patients. Assistants also must be aware of what tasks they are allowed to complete in the state where they work.

Dexterity. Dental assistants must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body, using very precise tools and instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental assistants must work closely with dentists and patients. Sometimes, patients are in extreme pain and/or mental stress, so the assistant should be sensitive to their emotions.

Listening skills. Dental assistants should be able to listen to patients and other healthcare workers. They need to follow directions from a dentist or dental hygienist, so they can help treat patients and do tasks, such as taking an x ray.

Organizational skills. Dental assistants should have excellent organizational skills. They should have the correct tools in place for a dentist or dental hygienist to use when treating a patient.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require dental assistants to be licensed, registered, or certified. In other states, there are no formal requirements to become an entry-level dental assistant.

States that allow assistants to perform expanded duties, such as coronal polishing, require that they be licensed, registered, or hold certifications from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To earn certification from DANB, applicants must pass an exam. The educational requirements for DANB certification are that dental assistants must either have graduated from an accredited program or have a high school diploma and complete the required amount of work experience. Applicants also must have current certification in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

In addition, many states require assistants to meet specific education or training requirements in order to work with radiography (x ray) equipment. Requirements vary by state. Contact state boards of dentistry for specific requirements.

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Average Length of Employment
Surgical Assistant 3.7 years
Dental Assistant 3.4 years
Dental Internship 0.6 years
Top Careers Before Surgical Dental Assistant
Assistant 3.3%
Internship 2.4%
Cashier 2.2%
Waitress 1.5%
Top Careers After Surgical Dental Assistant
Assistant 2.8%

Do you work as a Surgical Dental Assistant?

Surgical Dental Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

88.9%

Male

9.0%

Unknown

2.1%
Ethnicity

White

60.0%

Hispanic or Latino

20.1%

Black or African American

10.7%

Asian

5.7%

Unknown

3.5%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

46.9%

Polish

9.4%

Portuguese

6.3%

German

6.3%

Russian

6.3%

Khmer

3.1%

Cantonese

3.1%

French

3.1%

Carrier

3.1%

Tagalog

3.1%

Mandarin

3.1%

Arabic

3.1%

Thai

3.1%
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Surgical Dental Assistant Education

Schools

Everest Institute

6.5%

University of West Florida

6.5%

Kaplan University

6.5%

Concorde Career Institute

6.5%

Porter and Chester Institute

6.5%

Northern Virginia Community College

6.5%

Montgomery Community College

4.3%

Laramie County Community College

4.3%

Ohio Business College

4.3%

Ohio Valley College of Technology

4.3%

Charter College

4.3%

Anthem College - Bryman School

4.3%

Boston University

4.3%

University of Southern Indiana

4.3%

Florida Atlantic University

4.3%

Daniel Webster College

4.3%

Pennsylvania State University

4.3%

Fairmont State University

4.3%

Three Rivers Community College

4.3%

Bates Technical College

4.3%
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Majors

Dental Assisting

38.8%

Business

8.8%

Nursing

8.8%

Medical Technician

7.0%

Nuclear And Industrial Radiologic Technologies

7.0%

Health Care Administration

3.7%

General Studies

3.7%

Medical Assisting Services

2.9%

Biology

2.2%

Dentistry

2.2%

Education

2.2%

Health Sciences And Services

1.8%

Advanced Dentistry And Oral Sciences

1.8%

Legal Support Services

1.8%

Cosmetology

1.5%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

1.5%

Psychology

1.1%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.1%

Nursing Assistants

1.1%

Medicine

1.1%
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Degrees

Other

39.3%

Associate

18.0%

Certificate

16.1%

Bachelors

13.0%

Masters

5.3%

Diploma

4.7%

License

2.5%

Doctorate

1.1%
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Top Skills for A Surgical Dental Assistant

  1. Dental Procedures
  2. Surgery Room
  3. Surgical Procedures
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Prepare necessary equipment and instrumentation for dental procedures.
  • Prepared and disinfected surgery rooms for procedures.
  • Managed all insurance, marketing, accounts receivables and financing for periodontal surgical procedures.
  • Clean and maintain X-ray processors, take digital x-rays, sterilize instruments.
  • Assisted in surgical extractions, bone grafts, dental implants, and oral biopsies under local anesthetic and IV sedation.

How Would You Rate Working As a Surgical Dental Assistant?

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Top Surgical Dental Assistant Employers

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