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Dental Assistant Jobs

While most individuals in this position serve as a chair-side assistant to a dentist, the tasks they perform vary significantly from one practice to another. Some assistants work with dentists during procedures and are responsible for tasks such as handing the dentist the tools and instruments needed, suctioning excess saliva and water from a patient's mouth, and cleaning and disinfecting instruments once a procedure is over. However in some practices, dental assistants have much more responsibilities. They take and process x-rays, make casts or impressions of a patient's teeth, instruct patients on oral health and postoperative care, and make temporary crowns used for root canals.

The job of a dental assistant should not be confused with that of dental hygienists. Instead, most assistants use their job as a stepping stone to becoming a hygienist or advance further in the field.

Education - The education required to be a dental assistant varies. While some dentists will hire dental assistants without any education or training, more and more individuals are choosing to complete some type of dental assistant program, which usually takes less than a year to complete. These programs can often be found at community college or technical schools across the country. Usually, working as a dental assistant does not require a license, although some states do offer it.

Most jobs for dental assistants are located in offices of licensed dentists. A few jobs are located in schools or hospitals, though these are limited.

Pay - Dental assistants are often paid hourly, with the average assistant making $13 per hour. However, the pay scale ranges from $8 to over $20 depending upon experience, training, and employer.

Job Outlook - The number of dental assistants in the United States is on the rise, due to the significant demand by dentists around the country. More and more dentists and practices are hiring dental assistants to perform common tasks, such as those listed above, so that dentists can devote more of their time to advanced procedures, which are more profitable. In fact, the dental assistant occupation is predicted to be one of the top growing occupations through 2012. In addition to hiring more dental assistants, the field is also growing due to the rise in number of senior citizens who still have their natural teeth.

Dental assistants work an average of 35-40 hours each week, but this may vary depending upon the dental practice they work for. Safety and health is a major focus of dental practices, thus dental assistants often wear masks, gloves and special eyewear protection in order to protect themselves and their patient.

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