For many people, a trip to the dentist’s office is filled with anxiety. Drills! X-rays! A mouth full of cotton! Sharp instruments flying around one’s face!
Who could blame any patient for neglecting to notice all the busy people working around the office?
These busy people are hard at work ensuring that a dental visit, while maybe not fun, will be as quick, as painless, and as effective as possible. The industry has evolved and grown over the past century. Modern dentistry is making huge strides against the loss of teeth as we age. A recent article in The Senior Journal estimates that more than 75 percent of senior citizens – a new record – are keeping some or all of their teeth.
So what? What do all of these advances – aside from great news for oral health - mean for someone seeking a career? It means dental practice managers are working tirelessly to keep their offices staffed.
Safe, progressive, painless dental care is accessible to almost every American. Dental insurance and Medicaid policies provide individuals a way to pay for extensive and often expensive treatments.
As a result of field progress and affordability, dentists are finding themselves overwhelmed with all the details that go into making sure a dental visit is successful for every patient.
These dentists are the people who are driving the demand for qualified assistants across the nation.
A Health Field That Offers Healthy Job Prospects
As a patient contemplates all that is going on in the room, it becomes clear that a well-organized office is not run by a solitary dentist. Successful dental practices have a number of rewarding positions within them, including dentists, but also dental hygienists, dental assistants, the office practice manager and several clerical staff.
These folks swirling around the office are in fact performing a variety of important, rewarding, and needed jobs. A quick search of marketable careers reveals that now is a terrific time to consider a career as a dental assistant. Dentists and dental office practice managers are actively seeking qualified paraprofessionals who deliver both the clinical skills necessary to assist with procedures, and the social skills which may suffer as a practice becomes too busy to properly interact with a patient.
Efficient Offices Need Trained Staff
Most anxious patients are paying little attention to the people executing tasks around a typical office. Most of us do not know if the individual working closely with the dentist is a trained dental assistant. The assistant handles various responsibilities as the procedure unfolds. Dental assistants check vital signs, assist with x-rays, and handle instruments the dentist requests, such as the explorer, the spoon excavator, the pliers, or the mirror. This same assistant then cleans up and sterilizes the area.
In an office focused on the well-being of the patient, assistants are often the people who take a few extra minutes to talk to a patient about their day, their concerns, and their dental hygiene practices. This same assistant may offer ideas on how to improve a dental outcome.
Any of these tasks might be called upon during an ordinary day. According to the American Dental Association, dental assistants actually increase the efficiency of the busy dental office.
Again, this little fact is great both for the profession and for prospective dental assistants, as dentists and dental office managers seek to improve the practice bottom line in competitive economic times.
A recent U.S. News and World Report article quotes the Bureau of Labor statistics in estimating more than 58,000 new openings for dental assistants through the year 2024. Is this a good career fit? As with any career option, individuals interested in dental assisting should learn as much as they can about it. Start by watching the activities in any dental practice. Ask questions of people already working in the field. And talk to colleges, schools and certificate program providers about the many ways to get the right career.