How to Become a Certified Dental Assistant

If you want a career in a fast-growing profession and the chance to help people feel and look better, becoming a dental assistant may be the right choice for you. Demand for dental assistants is expected to increase at a faster-than-average rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Find out more about what it takes to become a dental assistant and how you can get started on the path to a fulfilling new career.  

What Is a Dental Assistant?

Dental assistants work alongside dentists and hygienists to help keep patients comfortable and ensure a dental practice runs smoothly. Their responsibilities vary but can include handing instruments to the dentist during a procedure, helping patients settle into the dental chair, scheduling appointments, and assisting with billing.

A dental assistant may have additional training and be able to take X-rays of a patient’s mouth and teeth, under the supervision of a dentist.

The majority of dental assistants work for private dental practices and most work a full-time schedule, usually nine to five, although the exact hours may vary depending on the practice’s opening hours. 

How to Become a Dental Assistant

In Florida, there are several routes you can take to become a dental assistant. One path is to train on the job and another is to complete an expanded training program. While training on the job may get you to work quickly, the tasks you can perform and your total responsibilities will be limited. 

Earning a dental assistant certificate means you’ll have more training and more to do on the job. It’s typically a multi-step process.

1. Enroll in a Dental Assistant Program

The first step is to enroll in a dental assistant career certificate program. In a career certificate program, you’ll learn the basics of working in a dental office, working with patients, and dental anatomy. The program will also cover the ins and outs of getting a job and improving your employability skills. 

How long the certificate program lasts depends on your schedule and the program you choose. Orange Technical College’s Dental Assisting Technology program typically requires 10 months of full-time study. If you need to enroll on a part-time basis, you may, but you’ll need more time to finish the certificate.  

2. Pass the Examination

The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) oversees several examinations for aspiring dental assistants, including the test to become a Certified Dental Assistant. To earn that certification, you’ll need to pass the Dental Assisting National Board Examination.

Finishing a dental assistant career certificate program prepares you for taking the exam and ideally gives you the skills and knowledge you need to pass the test. 

3. Find a Job as a Dental Assistant

Once you’ve passed your exam and have become a certified dental assistant, you can start to look for work in your new career. You’ll want to prepare a dental assistant resume that highlights any work experience, training and certifications you have before you begin job hunting. 

While most dental assistants work in private practices, you may also consider looking for work at larger facilities, dental schools, physicians’ offices, or government facilities.

Signs You May Make a Great Dental Assistant

Training is just one part of becoming a dental assistant. You also want to ensure the career is a good fit for your personality and skill set. Some ways to know that working in the dental field is the right call for you include:

  • You enjoy working with people: As a dental assistant, you’ll work with people daily, from the hygienists and dentists on staff to the patients. You may see people when they’re scared, cranky, or otherwise in a lot of discomfort. If you’re a people-person and know what to say and when, you may make a great dental assistant.
  • You enjoy working with your hands: Dental assisting may be a pretty hands-on job, depending on the practice where you work. If you’re dexterous and enjoy making things or working with your hands, dental assisting can be the job for you.
  • You’re organized: Dental assistants may also be in charge of keeping a dental practice running smoothly, ensuring that enough, but not too many, patients are booked, and that all the tools the dentist will need during a visit or procedure are ready.
  • You’re detail-oriented: It’s the little things that count, such as making a patient comfortable in a chair, adjusting the light so it’s not shining right in their eyes, and ensuring that all infection control procedures are followed. 

Ready to take the first step toward a new career? Learn more about the dental assisting certificate program at Orange Technical College today!