Dental Assistant FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What a Dental Assistant Does
What type of work does a Dental Assistant do?
Dental Assistants perform a variety of duties including (but not limited to) preparing patients, sterilize or disinfect instruments, prepare materials, assist dentists during procedures, record treatment information for patients, take and record medical and dental histories along with vital signs of patients, and perform various administrative functions in the dental office such as scheduling appointments, preparing bills, and maintaining records.
Where do Dental Assistants work?
Just about all Dental Assistants work in a Dentist’s office, under the supervision of a Dentist. They may also work closely with other members of the Dental Healthcare team, such as Dental Hygienists.
Will I be able to find a job?
It’s important to note that no school can guarantee employment. Here at Dorsey Schools, we offer career services assistance to all eligible graduates of the Dental Assistant program. You can learn more about the assistance our Career Services team offers by visiting our Career Services for Students and Graduates page. It is worth noting though that according to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 18% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.a In addition, according to the State of Michigan DTMB, Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 4.4% from 2014 to 2024.b
How much can I expect to make as a Dental Assistant?
Here are some helpful websites that will allow you to view information on Wages & Employment trends:
- Michigan Occupational Wage Information (The SOC for Dental Assistants is 31-9091)
- O*NET Online (Scroll down to Wages & Employment Trends to view helpful info on National/State trends)
Are there other jobs I may be able to obtain as a Dental Assistant?
Dental Assistants may work under other occupational titles such as Oral Surgery Assistant, Orthodontic Assistant, Orthodontic Technician, and Surgical Dental Assistant. When looking at any position, it’s important to evaluate the duties of the position along with the required skills and knowledge to determine if a candidate may meet the requirements set forth by the employer. In addition, some states require Dental Assistants to be certified in order to obtain gainful employment, so it is important to know the requirements of the state in which you wish to work, as the positions above may require a candidate to obtain certification prior to obtaining employment.
How is a Dental Assistant different from other dental healthcare professionals?
Dental Assistants typically work on the front lines in Dentists’ Offices assisting dentists in providing patient care as well as performing various administrative tasks in a Dentist’s office. It’s important to note that Dental Assistants are not the same as Dental Hygienists, who typically are able to perform a wider variety of tasks in a Dental office, due to the fact that they have obtained more training to become a Hygienist and are required to obtain licensure in order to obtain employment as a Dental Hygienist.
Are there other career opportunities for Dental Assistants?
Some may choose to use a career as a Dental Assistant as an entryway into the dental field. It would not be uncommon for a Dental Assistant to work in the field to gain experience and later go back to school to further their education and/or strengthen their credentials.
Becoming a Dental Assistant
How might I determine if this is a good career choice for me?
In choosing any career, it’s important that someone look at a variety of factors, some of which include:
- Can I see myself doing the work that this position/occupation performs and am I going to be happy performing those tasks in that type of work setting?
- Do I have the skills/traits/characteristics that one may need to be successful in a position like this?
- How is the employment outlook/trends for this position?
I have no medical background/experience in dental healthcare – can I really do this?
You can! Many Dental Assistants have little to no dental healthcare experience prior to beginning their training. That’s why it’s very important for someone interested in becoming a Dental Assistant to evaluate their school and training options closely.
What type of training is needed?
Dental Assistants typically attend a post-secondary school or institution to obtain training. Many of these programs lead to a certificate or a diploma and typically take one year to complete. Some programs may take up to two years to complete. Some states may have specific requirements in place for Dental Assistants as well. It’s also important to note that since Dental Assistants work very closely with patients in the actual occupational setting, it can be advantageous to a student to choose a program that has a strong hands-on component so they can “learn by doing.”
How long do I have to go to school?
Many Dental Assistant programs can be completed in a year or less. In choosing a program, it’s important for someone to evaluate the training that is included so they can ensure they are receiving the training they need (and want) prior to entering the field as a Dental Assistant.
What are important characteristics for Dental Assistants to have?
While this isn’t a full list of important characteristics, Dental Assistants should have good interpersonal skills, listening skills, organizational skills, and be detail-oriented. If you’re lacking in one or more of these areas, it doesn’t necessarily mean you wouldn’t be a good Dental Assistant, and it may be an area you wish to focus on as part of your training.
Is Certification/Licensure required to obtain employment as a Dental Assistant?
It’s always important to check if the State in which you want to work has specific requirements for Dental Assistants to obtain employment. It is not required that Dental Assistants be certified/licensed in order to obtain employment in the State of Michigan, however, some employers may set this requirement for candidates they wish to hire. Furthermore, there are benefits to becoming a Certified Dental Assistant, and certification may strengthen a candidate’s prospects during their search for employment. In order to assist our graduates, Dorsey Schools will pay the cost one time for students in this program to challenge a certification/licensure exam as selected by Dorsey Schools, contingent upon the student meeting Dorsey Schools exam preparation requirements, which vary by program.
NOTE: The Michigan Department of Community Health, Bureau of Health Professions and the Board of Dentistry, are responsible for the licensing of individuals who want to practice dentistry, dental hygiene and advanced levels of dental assisting. Students attending a course in dental assisting that is offered by a licensed proprietary school that is not accredited by the American Dental Association are not eligible for licensure by the State of Michigan. Dorsey Schools is classified as a licensed proprietary school and is not accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. Graduates of this program are not eligible for licensure as a Registered Dental Assistant. However, graduates of this program may challenge a certification exam offered by the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. after completing 3,500 hours of dental work experience. Dorsey’s Dental Assistant Program includes the opportunity to sit for the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) and the Infection Control (ICE) certification exams, which are two components of the Dental Assisting national Board (“DANB”) Certified Dental Assistant (“CDA”) exam. Graduates of this program may complete the third exam component necessary for DANB’s CDA credential, which is challenged after completing “a minimum of 3,500 hours’ work experience as a dental assistant, accrued over a period of at least two years (24 months, if employed fulltime) to a maximum of four years (48 months, if employed part-time) which employment must be verified by a licensed dentist.”
The Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant Program
What will be covered in the program?
The Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant program offers instruction in both a traditional classroom setting as well as a hands-on environment by way of the lab at Dorsey Schools in addition to an externship that will take place during the final module of training. Students enrolled in the Dental Assistant program will be exposed to a variety of topics including (but not limited to):
- Business Communications
- Infection Control in Dentistry
- Dental Anatomy, Morphology, and Dentitions
- Oral Health and Prevention of Dental Disease
- Dental Materials
- Administrative Dental Office Procedures
- Introduction to Radiography*
- Perform Vital Signs, CPR, and Dental Pharmacology
- Introduction to Chair-side Assisting responsibilities
- Introduction to Procedures of Prosthodontics, Dental Implants, and Endodontics
- Exploration of Dental Specialties such as Pediatric Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics, Coronal Polishing, and Dental Sealants
- Handling and Transferring Dental Instruments
- And more…!
Is your program hands-on?
Yes! Students will have opportunities to practice the skills they are learning in both the labs on campus at Dorsey Schools as well as during their externship.
What’s the externship and why is that important?
The externship will take place during the last module of training and will provide students with an opportunity to apply skills they have learned throughout their training in an actual occupational setting.
How long is the program?
The Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant program is designed to be completed in one year.
Who are the instructors?
Our instructors are caring individuals that possess experience and expertise in their respective field. Our instructors meet the criteria set forth by the State of Michigan as well as the criteria set forth by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (Dorsey Schools’ institutional accrediting body).
Why should I choose Dorsey over another school?
Students choose Dorsey Schools over other Career Training Schools for a variety of reasons. You can learn more by visiting The Dorsey Difference page.
How do I enroll?
If you’re interested in enrolling in the Dental Assistant program at Dorsey Schools, the first step you should take is meeting with one of our Admissions Representatives. You can read more about our Admissions process on our Admissions information page.
Does your program include certification?
While actual certification is not included in the curriculum of the Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant program, graduates may go on to challenge applicable certification exams. For those who wish to challenge a certification exam, Dorsey Schools will pay the cost one time for students in this program to challenge a certification/licensure exam as selected by Dorsey Schools, contingent upon the student meeting Dorsey Schools exam preparation requirements, which vary by program.
Will your program prepare me for certification?
The Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant program is designed to prepare students to go on to challenge the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) and the Infection Control (ICE) certification exams, which are two components of the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (“CDA”) exam. Professional certifications enhance the prospect of ultimately securing and maintaining employment, therefore, Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant program graduates are encouraged to sit for applicable certification exams, and a one-time site fee, as determined by Dorsey Schools, is included in the Dental Assistant program tuition. Graduates of the Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant program may complete the third exam component necessary for DANB’s CDA credential, which is challenged after completing “a minimum of 3500 hours’ of work experience as a dental assistant, accrued over a period of at least two years (24 months, if employed full-time) to a maximum of four years (48-months, if employed part-time) which employment must be verified by a licensed dentist.”
Is your school accredited?
Yes, Dorsey Schools is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
What is the tuition for the program?
The current tuition for the Dorsey Schools Dental Assistant program can be accessed by clicking here.
What is included in my tuition?
In addition to program instruction, tuition includes books, a set of scrubs, a tablet and Dorsey Schools will pay the cost one time for graduates of this program to challenge two certification exams as selected by Dorsey Schools, contingent upon the graduate meeting Dorsey Schools exam preparation requirements.
Is Financial Aid available?
Financial Aid is available for those who qualify. For additional information on Financial Aid and Tuition Assistance, we would encourage you to visit our Financial Aid Information page.
Can you help me find a job after graduation?
Dorsey Schools offers Career Services assistance to all eligible graduates, however, job placement is not guaranteed. You can learn more about the assistance our Career Services team offers by visiting our Career Services for Students and Graduates page.
For your reference, we’ve included the links below of several very helpful websites where you can learn more about Dental Assistants, info pertaining to Jobs as a Dental Assistant, the work Dental Assistants do, etc.:
aBureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dental Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm (visited July 11, 2016).
bMichigan DTMB, Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, Long-Term Occupational Employment Projections (2014-2024) Michigan Statewide, Dental Assistants (SOC Code: 31-9091), http://milmi.mt.gov/Portals/137/publications/projectionsdata/LongTerm_OccupationalProj_2024_MI.xlsx (visited July 11, 2016).
Michigan Occupational Wage Information: http://milmi.org/?PAGEID=67&SUBID=124
O*Net Online: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/31-9091.00
Dorsey Schools Gainful Employment Disclosures for the Dental Assistant program: For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please click here.
*DA114, the course that covers Introduction to Radiology, follows the Michigan Dental Association approved radiography training program.