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How to Become a Dental Assistant

how to become a dental assistantHave you ever considered working as a dental assistant?

It’s a fantastic career for people who are organized, reliable, good with people, and love doing different things every day.

If this sounds like you, the first step is learning how to become a dental assistant so you understand what’s required before you can begin working in this promising field. Once you do, you’ll have a good idea if this job is a good fit or not.

Dental Assistant Requirements

In a moment, we’ll cover one of the exams you can decide to take in order to become certified as a dental assistant.

However, before you reach that point, you’ll first need to complete your training. This must be done at a school like IntelliTec Colleges, which is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

Training to Become a Dental Assistant

Even with the dental assistant requirements provided by CODA, every training program is going to be a little different.

Nonetheless, for the most part, training to become a dental assistant will involve all of the following:

  • Receiving personalized, hands-on instruction from teachers with real-world experience
  • Learning the skills you’ll need in a fully-functional dental clinic
  • Completing 160 hours of on-the-job training through an externship
  • Preparing to sit for your dental assistant certification exams

The hands-on instruction and guidance from people who have spent years working as dental assistants themselves are absolutely vital. Aside from the educational aspects of this type of training, it will also give you confidence knowing you’ve already had real-world experience long before you begin applying for jobs.

Your externship will also help build this kind of confidence. During this time, you’ll develop your knowledge in key areas, like:

  • Chairside assistance
  • Dental pathology
  • Dental pharmacology
  • Oral anatomy
  • Oral hygiene
  • Radiography

That said, there will also be coursework similar to the kind you would find in other college classrooms. Some of the topics you’ll cover will include:

  • CPR
  • Dental Materials
  • Dental Office Administration
  • Dental Pharmacology
  • Dental Radiography
  • Oral Anatomy

You will also receive training to help hone your organizational, managerial, and administrative skills so you have what it takes to support a thriving office.

By the time you graduate with your certificate, you should be able to:

  • Record Medical Histories – Taking down a patient’s relevant medical history is important for ensuring dentists understand everything about current prescriptions, past surgeries, existing medical conditions, allergies, and anything else they need to know in order to properly care for their patient. Dental assistants must also know how to store and transfer this data as necessary.
  • Carry Out Administrative Tasks – This includes everything from maintaining the filing system to using the office’s management software to updating the schedule.

Finally, your training will definitely entail learning how to use dental tools and other materials. You must understand which ones your dentist needs in order to carry out a specific procedure and how to properly care for them.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

The good news is that all of this training can be done in as few as nine months. That means, no matter what kind of background you have, you could become a dental assistant and start a whole new career path in as little as 9 months.

Choosing a Focus

The world of dentistry is a vast one, meaning there are a number of different fields you could decide to focus on. Developing a specialty is great for job satisfaction but can also help to boost your salary, too.

Common examples of specialty areas that dental assistants may focus on include pediatric and orthodontic care.

There’s also the option of eventually returning to school to pursue an advanced degree somewhere down the line.

Dental Assistant Certification Requirements

After you’ve completed your training as a dental assistant and earned your certificate, your next step will be to take an examination before earning your formal certification.

Of course, you may also decide to become nationally certified by taking the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) exam.

This exam is made up of three parts:

  • Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
    • 100 Multiple-Choice Questions
    • 1¼ Hours Testing Time
  • Infection Control (ICE)
    • 100 Multiple-Choice Questions
    • 1¼ Hours Testing Time
  • Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology (AMP)
    • 105 Multiple-Choice Questions
    • 80 Minutes Testing Time

Once you have successfully passed all three portions of the NELDA exam, you can begin applying for jobs as a dental assistant.

Are You Ready to Begin Your Career as a Dental Assistant?

Now that you have a better understanding of how to become a dental assistant, are you excited about what this career path would entail?

If so, we would love to help you take the next step toward entering this field.

Contact us today and we’ll send you further information about our specific program and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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