Dental Assistant Qualifications
Some states require dental assistants to have completed an accredited training program; others have no formal educational qualifications. Dental assistant programs typically last about a year and lead to a certificate or diploma. Two-year programs leading to an associates degree are also available, though less common. Certain states require assistants to pass a state exam before qualifying them to practice. Students looking to enter a dental assisting career should prepare by taking courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.
Dental assistants work closely with patients and dentists, so good listening, communication, and interpersonal skills are important. Assistants must develop an awareness of a patient's physical or mental discomfort and be sensitive to their needs. A qualified dental assistant also needs to be detail oriented. There a specific rules and protocols that must be followed when practicing dental work and assistants need to limit their interaction to practices they are allowed to administer according to state regulations. Strong organizational skills are also vital. It is the dental assistant's job to have all tools in place and prepared for the dentist or dental hygienist while they are treating a patient.
For dental assistants who have not completed a formal training program, skills can be learned through on-the-job training. Experienced office personnel or the dentist themselves can teach new assistants the necessary skills to qualify them to properly perform the functions of a dental assistant.
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