Dental assistants help dentists provide treatment to patients by interacting with the patients, preparing them for examinations, assisting with cleanings, and both setting up and breaking down the tools necessary for proper dental care. Dental assistants also fulfill other duties given to them by the dentist. These may include making impressions of teeth, taking x-rays, keeping track of patient records, and using dental tools. Dental assisting majors should be good at following directions, as they will need to listen to dentists to fulfill their job duties, and should also have strong interpersonal skills, as they will interact with patients on a daily basis. Dental assistants are expected to keep dental workspaces clean, so strong organization skills are also important.
Classes and Assignments of a Dental Assisting Major
Whether dental assisting majors pursue online associate dental assisting degrees or traditional degrees, they will take course work dedicated to learning how to identify and use dental tools. Students will also take classes in keeping dental charts, dental anatomy, clinical procedures, and dental x-rays. Students will read textbooks, write papers, and practice the skills they learn in clinics under the supervision of professional dental assistants. Most states require certification prior to allowing dental assisting majors to practice, and this can be obtained by taking an examination after course work is complete.
Degree Levels for a Dental Assisting Major
- Associate. At the associate degree level, classes are tailored to teaching the skills necessary for establishing a career in the dental assisting field. Students will also gain laboratory and clinical experience as part of the curriculum. This is the most common educational path toward certification as a dental assistant.
- Bachelor’s. It is uncommon for dental assisting majors to pursue online bachelors dental assisting degrees. Rather, students who seek to further their education beyond the associate degree level tend to pursue dental hygiene or dental health care management majors at the bachelor’s level. The most useful college degrees build upon the skills acquired at the associate level.
- Master’s. As students earn bachelor’s degrees before they can earn online masters dental assisting degrees, the master’s curriculum for dental majors elaborates on the skills and knowledge acquired from undergraduate education. At this level, students usually pursue dental hygiene and health care management through a more in-depth approach than the one utilized at the bachelor’s level.
- Doctoral. Doctoral degrees in the dental field can lead a student to become a full-fledged dentist, a goal that can be achieved after finishing dental school, or can prepare students for a career in academia. Students can choose to pursue specializations within the field of dentistry, like orthodontics or surgery, and benefit from a detailed curriculum dedicated to the dental field.
A Future as a Dental Assisting Major
The obvious career path for dental assisting majors is that of a dental assistant. This career averages $32,380 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and is projected to have an excellent outlook. However, dental assisting isn’t the only career open to students; the best college degrees prepare students for other responsibilities as well. Individuals that seek to further their education beyond the associate level can become dental hygienists or even full-fledged dentists. According to the BLS, dental hygienists make $66,570 annually and dentists average $142,870 annually. However, keep in mind that these salaries are not guaranteed; in fact, your salary will vary, based on geographical location, the employer, and the amount of experience you have.
Students with a degree in Dental Assisting are considered well prepared for
becoming Dental hygienists.