Every year, new tools and products are invented to make oral care easier for Americans. Some recent inventions include rechargeable oscillating toothbrushes; stainless steel, floss-like picks; and whitening strips that prevent plaque while brightening tooth enamel. The demand for innovative oral care products is high partially because many more Americans are becoming aware of the importance of good whole-mouth health.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the government projects a continued increase in preventative dental care efforts for younger generations. In addition, the Baby Boomer generation, the first group of Americans to grow up drinking fluoridated water, will be more likely to retain their natural teeth, rather than using dentures in old age. This group is also nearing retirement, which means there will be a surge of vacancies in the oral health and medicine fields.
Dental school can be expensive, though. It is a four-year, post-graduate school, so students must complete four-plus-year-long bachelor’s degree programs before even approaching the dental education. This educational program has a similar competitive and academically challenging environment to medical school – and the price tags on many dental schools are comparable to medical school, as well. To get in, students must prepare during college with rigorous courses in calculus, organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, and biology – not unlike a pre-med education. These classes can be very difficult, and sometimes, even the smartest students can’t handle the rigor.
Quick and affordable training: dental assisting school
Students who want to enter the work force right away without shelling out major money for college and professional school should consider a dental assisting career. The schooling process for these careers can range from six months to two years, depending upon the program and whether the student goes full- or part-time. Because dental assisting school programs are shorter in duration, they are less expensive than college. By enrolling in these quick and low-cost programs, students can avoid getting into major debt.
Unlike post-graduate schools, which generally do not leave students with time to work while taking classes, dental assisting school classes are flexible, giving students the option to work full- or part-time. Supplementing school with work is a terrific way to avoid debt — and it might be even more important in today’s college financing environments. More and more students who attend four-year schools compete fiercely for fewer lenient government loans; others turn to private loans to finance large tuition sums. Many students will be paying off their college and post-graduate school loans well into middle age. Dental assisting students, however, will not have to deal with these financial burdens; in fact, most will be able to recoup the entirety of their school tuition in the first five years of work.
To be successful in this program, students should take biology, mathematics, and English classes in high school. These courses will help students develop keen grasps of human anatomy and foster critical thinking skills necessary for successful work in the dental field. After getting into school, the students who study hard, participate in class, and go above and beyond the minimal expectations during their school-sponsored internships or externships will likely be the most successful dental assistants.
Dental assistants can go far on the job
Job duties for dental assistants can vary, depending on whether a student works in a small family oral care practice, a large university dental center, or another, completely different work environment. The main role of a dental assistant is to help the dentist with patient procedures; most professionals will also help out with patient records-keeping and other general office work.
One of the most important job duties of a dental assistant is infection control. This job role entails keeping instruments and dental materials sterile so patients are not infected with harmful microbes. Dental assistants also ensure that patients are comfortable while procedures are being performed, and make sure their mouths are unobstructed and free of excess saliva so the dentist can work. Other job duties dental assistants typically perform include mixing dental amalgams, gels, and materials; organizing and maintaining patient dental files; and scheduling dental appointments. Some assistants might be permitted to develop x-rays or counsel patients on oral health techniques, depending upon the rules of the state in which they’re employed.
One of the best attributes of a dental assisting career is the flexibility of the job. While many dental assistants do work full-time, some work three-quarters or half-time, enabling them to pursue freelance careers, raise children, or do volunteer work in their downtime. Some part-time positions even pay benefits, depending on the practice. In addition, with some extra schooling, dental assistants can work as hygienists – this position features higher pay and more challenging job duties – or, can work selling dental materials and services. With additional business or art courses, some students can even go into marketing or design and branding for dental companies.
Students who are looking for rewarding careers with short and inexpensive training times might want to consider dental assisting. With job growth predicted to be much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and starting salaries well above food service and retail jobs, these careers can really take off!