We spend a large portion of our waking lives at our jobs. It only makes sense that we find the career that provides not only a solid income, but reasonable levels of satisfaction and contentment.
Any job, any career, comes with advantages – and, unfortunately, disadvantages. Here’s a look at both the pros and cons for individuals seeking a career as a dental assistant.
Here are some positives to consider:
- A growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career is expected to grow some 18 percent through the year 2024.
- Variety of tasks. Dental assistants may be asked to
- assist the dentist with procedures
- develop X-rays
- record patient histories
- take vital signs such as blood pressure
- conduct patient training
- perform clerical office tasks, and much more
- Pay scale, the pros . There are fewer pre-requisites to becoming a dental assistant than say, a dentist or hygienist. Dental assistants can earn an average of $35,000 per year with little to no on-the-job training or an advanced degree.
- People – the upside. If you enjoy working with people, dental assisting might be a great fit, since it can be a very social field. Dental assistants are often the first line of communication for patients, and they are often expected to be friendly, helpful, even comforting. Dental assistants are also expected to work closely with dentists, hygienists and other office personnel. Good people skills are a definite advantage.
- Easy field to enter. Unlike other professionals in the office, a working dental assistant can enter the field more quickly with fewer restrictions. Most programs take under a year and lead to a certificate or diploma. Applicants are not expected to have an advanced degree.
Here are tasks and issues that some individuals may consider negatives:
- Physical issues. It is important to demand good working conditions in any field. Dental professionals are often on their feet, bending over patients, etc. Be on the lookout for backaches, headaches, numbness in arm and wrist, or neck injuries, and take precautions to stay healthy in the workplace. Most offices conduct training on how to stay safe.
- People – the downside. With ANY job, it is possible to be involved with an unhealthy office culture. It is important, with ANY job, to find the right fit. Interview with several different offices. Inquire about the office culture, working hours, and the tasks expected of you before you accept a job. If possible, talk to other employees to gauge the culture. Once in the office, learn how to deal with patients who may be angry or afraid. Dealing with people can be one of the most challenging, or rewarding, parts of the job.
- Body fluids. Dental assistants are in the health care field, and, as such, will be expected to deal with blood and other body fluids. This is not a job for the squeamish.
- Pay scale, the cons. Dental assistants are usually the lower end of the pay scale within a working dental office. To compare (see pay scale, the pros, above), a trained dentist makes an average of $150,000 per year. Dental hygienists make an average of $68,000 to $72,000 per year.
Most working dental assistants would agree that the pros of this career far outweigh the cons. If you are considering dental assisting as a career, learn all you can about the industry. Talk to others in the field. Ask for information about training schools that offer dental assisting programs. Make sure the job where you spend thousands of hours a year is right for you!