While you may understandably want to get started working as soon as possible for financial reasons, there are several reasons that it may pay to become certified or formally educated in a dental assisting course first before looking for that first job.
At the very least, if are able to get hired without training or experience, it would be beneficial to take a course concurrently, either in the evenings or on weekends if your schedule (and the course schedule) permits.
Many states in the US do allow dental assistants to take entry level jobs in dental offices performing the most basic of tasks, both administrative tasks and serving as an extra pair of hands in the exam room before, during, and after patient exams. This level of dental assisting does not require certification or licesning, and many assistants are taught on the job by the employing dentist, so it’s not always an absolute necessity to complete your dental assistant training first.
If a dentist really only needs an extra set of hands, the one advantage for dentist is that he is able to train you, the assistants, to match his way of doing things. Because you have no prior experience or frame of reference, you will learn to do things exactly as the dentist prefers.
However, the advantages stop there. While many states permit an entry level dental assistant, most have certification processes or permits for more highly trained dental assistants to legally perform more complex procedures. While still under the supervision of the employing dentist, these certified or permitted dental assistants are able to perform expanded functions, and thus are more valuable to their employers.
What are the benefits of being certified or licensed before starting your dental assistant job search?
Higher Starting Pay – You’ve invested in your education, and now you’re able to legally perform a wider range of tasks in your job. Your additional experience and ability will command you a higher starting pay, so you won’t have to ask for a huge raise later.
A dentist only has so much time for patients in the day, so being able to delegate more tasks to trained employees may free them up to fit in one or two additional appointments per day. As a result, even if a trained dental assistant costs slightly more, there is a greater opportunity to increase revenue by being able to serve more patients in a day.
Easier Job Search – Because Certified or Licensed (depending on the state rules and regulations) Assistants can perform a wider variety of tasks and procedures, they should find that the job search and hiring process will move more quickly.
Highly trained dental assistants are in demand. When there are more openings than qualified applicants, you will have your choice of dentists and offices for whom you may choose to work. You may also find that some openings will only be available to those with Certification or Licensing required by the state.
Easier Transition to Work Due to Prior Training (You’ll know what you’re doing) – With training already completed, your first day on the job will be much more comfortable. Assuming your training included hand-on clinical experience, you’ll already be familiar with what to do when you’re chairside. Your dentist will be pleased, not frustrated, when he asks you for something and you are able to provide it right away.
Higher Job Satisfaction and Respect from Your Co-Workers – Think of your first day on the job as your first impression to the office. When things go smoothly, you make a good first impression. If you fumble too much, it may take a little longer to gain the respect of your co-workers and boss. If you take a long time to learn what you should be doing, it can put you at a disadvantage and bring some insecurity. If you’re prepared and know what to do, you’ll feel confident and secure in your position.
Higher Level of Patient Comfort with a Highly Skilled Assistant – When you’re confident and prepared, the patients will be comfortable with you. Going to the dentist makes some people nervous, but they are able to relax if you can put them at ease by letting them know what to expect. In very simple terms, happy patients are good for business, and a stable business means job security for you.