You can do a search of old television shows or movie clips to see how the dental assistant has been portrayed over the last several decades – they usually just weren’t.
They were simply omitted from the scenery of a dentist’s office, and more so the further back you look. You would quickly find that the false heroics of the one-man dentistry show have merely been more conducive to the comedic and dramatic flare for amusement.
For entertainment’s sake, it is seldom that the near super-humans are not juggling all of the tasks themselves on the screen, bringing about more laughs and gasps and creating debacles. Those would be the dentists with a suffering reputation in the real world, though.
Thankfully, one is about as likely to meet a dentist today without their dentist assistants by their side as you would be to see them doing without a reclining chair, their ominous drill, and a skilled bookkeeper.
At one time, dentists may have been considered the champion in solving toothaches, painful cavities and a plethora of other oral maladies but the assistant’s are quickly moving into the role of the one furnishing the support, understanding, comfort, sympathy and even relief that both precedes and follows the doctor’s harsher duties. It seems that off-screen these members of the team have become the unsung hero.
Logic would easily convey to us that the art of dentistry, with all of its intricacies and complexities being finely managed autonomously, completed by only the dentist, is about as likely as the designer of an automobile single-handedly putting out the finished project, ready to drive off the showroom floor.
The obvious importance of the dental assistant’s value to a dentist becomes undeniable in the mere fact that a great number of dentist offices have several in their employ. These jobs, then, should reasonably be as numerous as dentists themselves.
Roots of the Dentist’s Assistant
Although it cannot be pinpointed when the first person was employed as a dentist assistant, it also should not be considered odd that it would have likely been around the time the practice of dentistry itself began. It may be surprising, though, to see that there is evidence that supports that dentist assisting jobs are not so new.
At http://www.historicalmedicalart.com/ “The Lady Dentist and Dentist Assistant, circa, 2005” is a painting illustrating what is alluded to be the first woman dentist, although set in a rather modern facility.
The scene depicts one, maybe two of them with the female doctor, Emiline Roberts (1837 – 1924). One dental assistant is shown on the other side of the chair from the doctor and another possible assistant is shown in the doorway, obviously interacting.
As the above article states, Emiline Roberts is thought to be the first woman dentist, gaining her status, as could be done back then, by apprenticing with her dentist husband, (in other words; she was his dental assistant). Then, in 1859 she became his partner and eventually took over his practice when he passed away in 1864. After her husband’s death she continued in her practice for 60 years without him.
More evidence of how long dental assisting jobs have been around are found further in the same article, as it states, “The era of the dental assistant is credited to Dr. C. Edmund Kells, a New Orleans dentist, who in 1885 hired a young woman to replace a male assistant.”
This was newsworthy because a female in this role was unheard of and the acceptance of such did not grow quickly. As it was, and like many jobs of that time, (especially those demanding critical expertise) generally considered a man’s job.
The Formation of Organization
Dental assistant societies began forming in as early as 1917.
One of the earliest visionaries and trailblazers for female in this role was Julliete Southard, who, after being hired in a full time position, sought to have a unification of her proud profession.
These societies began forming all over the United States and by 1923 Julliete Southard pushed for permission and managed to attend her first convention of dentist assistants.
Two years after that, in 1925, The American Dental Assistant’s Association was born (A.D.A.A.). She not only had become actively involved but she the president of the association by that time.
A Look At The Dental Assisting Job Description
In spite of the fact that they work very closely under the supervision of the Doctors of Dentistry, they cover a vast array of duties that would very unlikely ever fall into the category of boring routine procedure.
On the contrary, a dental assistant’s job description sounds fulfilling and exciting.
It seems fair to say that they carry much responsibility for the welfare of the patients on their shoulders. On a standard resume they would have to list their duties in broad strokes just to keep it to one page!
Variety And Challenges of Dental Assisting Jobs
The job description for this role includes so many duties that keep their job interesting, from the possibly less exciting example of sterilizing dental tools and carefully arranging them in their proper order, to the more hands on activities of handing those tools to the doctor as needed, in the heart of the dentists’ oral surgeries and other challenging procedures, experiencing the nitty-gritty, literally working very close and “hands on” with patients through the doctor’s guidance.
Dental assistant jobs require one to be an effective communicator, keeping the flow of information succinct and accurate between the patient and the doctor as well as between the doctor and other staff members.
It is often in the hands of dentist’s assistant to keep pertinent notes and have the responsibility of keeping proper records of the treatments and procedures performed on each patient.
They also perform many highly technical tasks such as most of the laboratory work, for instance, making temporary crowns, impressions and casts for bridges and crowns, braces, retainers, and many other oral appliances commonly used today.
They perform routine maintenance; adjustments cleaning and buffing up of many previously acquired appliances during patients’ visits.
It should come as no surprise that it is also among the dental assistant’s job description to maintain inventory of the products and supplies needed to keep the office running smoothly.
Accountability for inventory is another task that leads to even greater responsibility, and again a more specialized skill, which is to be perceptive and aware as to the projected need for supplies.
The dentist’s assistant needs to be vigilant about ordering at the appropriate junctures, keeping products organized, and possessing an ability to maintain an ongoing knowledge and awareness of specific products, the frequency of its use, quality and shelf life, as well as being mindful of the physical storage space available in the particular office setting.
How Much Do They Make?
Considering the extensive service performed by them, it is the next obvious question to ask how much money do assistants make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reflects averages of hourly and annual wages, the expected salary is quite respectable.
The average pay for a dental assistant in the U.S. is between $9.74 and $18.89 per hour, or $29,000 to $37,000 annually.
Remember that the report displays averages so some salaries could be a great deal more, and it is likely that the ones making up the lower side of the average are fresh to the field, or with less dental assistant training.
The field of dental assisting is not exempt from what is common knowledge of many jobs: although some have managed to find their way into the field without the appropriate education, it is far from an easy task, and you can probably imagine the great difference in the dental assistant salary for one untrained.
Job seekers for this specific field who do not seek out the advantage of attending dental assistant schools, who may, against tough odds, find themselves in the position of assisting in a dentist office, may potentially be setting themselves up for months or years of arduous frustration before becoming abreast with their colleagues who attended a dentist assistant college.
If pay raises are based on the employee’s work performance one would also expect the need to be very patient for their job to pay well.
Why Wouldn’t Training Be Expected?
If we have lived to adulthood we have certainly heard the woes of a person who struggles to get the pay they think they deserve for the work that they do. Bosses trying to save company money by withholding fair pay are notorious.
It may behoove one to consider the possibility that those who do not ask for assistants with proper training could have a motive of saving money in payroll at the expense of an optimum practice.
Why wouldn’t one want their assistant to have education or training when it is so easy to do and so many people are willing and eager to become a prepared professional?
Opportunities For Any Lifestyle
Many years ago it was truly a difficult task, even leaning toward impossible, for a person working a full time job to further their education or think about switching careers, which would leave so many feeling sorrowfully stuck right where they were.
The great news is that those days are not the present. It is no longer the case. Along with the technological leaps that we see affect all aspects of our lives, these advances are also enabling people with more and more options.
Dental Assisting Today
We are living in an era of endless opportunity. Change does undeniably present its challenges but it is agreeable that it has also made us stronger – the days of being hopelessly tied to and tormented by unfulfilling, low paying jobs need not have a place in our lives anymore.
Often you hear those feeling overworked lamenting that they have no time to take a class. Educational institutions have made it convenient for us to become more and more trained and educated through flexible hours, night classes, week-end programs and the like.
Presently there are highly regarded colleges offering superb online dental assisting programs that can be taken advantage of by anybody who has the heart to just say yes. Such flexible programs being offered can truly become the key to freeing oneself from being worked too hard and paid too little.
We have evolved to be a people who can now guide our lives down better avenues to happier, more fulfilling career choices and there is no time better than today to get started.
At the top of anybody’s list of positive aspects about life today could be the words, “I have choices.” It is one of the most exciting facts of our present life. Among the many choices we have the power to select, we have excellent educational options available to us right now.
Answering the question “how to become a dental assistant” has become easier in recent years with the addition of online classes and certification programs.
Online courses can be fit into almost any lifestyle, as it is the most flexible form of education enhancement that the world has ever encountered to this point. Study when you choose and come and go as you please or need.
Training through the many online dental assistant programs currently available to us is gracefully balanced with reasonable guidelines that you can make work for you and easily keep you motivated because it is also fun! It is an understatement to say that dental assisting is a career path worthy of high consideration.
Get the training and education you need to begin turning your life around now, from your own home, or wherever you choose. The choice to become a dental assistant is yours to for the taking.