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Dental Administrative Assistant: Job Info & Requirements

Learn about the work a dental administrative assistant performs. Explore the education and training necessary, as well as salary and employment outlook, to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition

A dental administrative assistant works to assist a dentist in caring for patients. Assistants interact with both patients and the dental team, perform administrative office duties, obtain health histories, and maintain records. They must have strong customer service, computer software and telephone skills, and they must know the technicalities of dental insuring and billing.

How to Become a Dental Administrative Assistant

Education Required

Some states do not regulate the practice of dental administrative assistance, and you could get on-the-job training to learn your duties. In other states, you may need to complete a 1-year dental-assisting training program that will award you the diploma or certificate you need to start your career. You can also find 2-year programs at junior or community colleges. In these programs, students study dental billing, office administration software, dental practices, and more.

Skills Required

Dental administrative assistants must recognize the signs and symptoms of dental troubles. Assistants have to understand dental terminology and be able to use computer programs for dental offices. Dental administrative assistants need to master both recall and filing systems. Good communication skills and interpersonal skills are needed to work with nervous patients and dentists under stressful conditions.

Economic and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the demand for dental administrative assistants is going to continue to rise; employment opportunities for dental assistants are projected to grow by 25% from 2012 to 2022. This growth is partly due to increasing knowledge that oral health is an important part of overall health and subsequent demand for dental appointments. The BLS also reported the median annual salary of dental assistants as $34,500 in May 2012.

Alternative Careers

Dental Hygienists

For those who want to provide more hands-on patient care in a dental office, becoming a dental hygienist is a career to consider. Hygienists keep accurate records of procedures and treatment plans, clean teeth, take x-ray images, administer fluoride treatments and educate patients about teeth and gum care. To enter the profession, as associate degree in dental hygiene is necessary, and state licensing requirements must be met. Based on data from the BLS, dental hygienists should see 33% employment growth during the 2012-2022 decade. These professionals received a median yearly wage of $70,210, as reported by the BLS in 2012.

Medical Assistant

Although many of their duties are similar to what a dental assistant does, medical assistants work in a physician's office instead of a dental practice. Medical assistants not only provide clerical support with scheduling and records management, but they also measure vitals, get medical histories, assist with examinations, prepare lab specimens and administer medications. A high school diploma could be all that is necessary to get a job in the field, but many employers prefer candidates who have completed related training or a certificate program. In 2012, the BLS estimated that the median salary of medical assistants was $29,370. They also expect job opportunities to increase by 29% from 2012-2022, resulting in almost 163,000 new positions.

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