Online Colleges Offering Degrees in Dental Assisting

Dental assistants play an important role in keeping dentists' offices running smoothly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they often prepare patients for procedures, instruct them in proper oral hygiene, schedule appointments and help with billing (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). The tasks performed by dental assistants can free up dentists to perform more complicated procedures, and high-volume practices make issues such as scheduling, maintenance of patient records, and billing even more important. Many people, especially children, are uncomfortable and nervous when they have to go to the dentist. As a result, helping put patients at ease is another important job duty for dental assistants. Dental assistants may also take X-rays, do lab work, and, depending on the state they work in, assist with a variety of dental procedures. Those interested in careers as dental assistants should be detail-oriented individuals who enjoy working closely with others. They should also be equally interested in administrative and scientific tasks (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

What to Expect from Online Programs in Dental Assisting

Educational requirements to become a dental assistant vary by state. Some require individuals to graduate from an accredited program and take a state exam, while others do not have formal requirements. For full-time workers, busy parents, and others who are looking for a flexible education program, online colleges for degrees in dental assisting can be a good option to consider.

Some online colleges offering degrees in dental assisting offer programs that can be completed in as little as two years, culminating in an associate degree. Online diploma or certificate options are also available, and these programs may only take a year to complete for full-time students (bls.gov, 2012).

According to the BLS, coursework for online degrees in dental assisting may include studying the anatomy of various parts of a patients' teeth and mouth. Because many dental assistants sterilize tools, set up work areas, and assist with procedures, they also learn the names and functions of dental instruments. Once their program has been completed, students can seek certification by taking the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, which is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Job Outlook for Graduates with Online Dental Assistant Degrees

In recent years, research has linked poor oral health to other health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and more. As the results of these studies become more accessible to the general public, the demand for preventative dentistry is expected to increase significantly. An aging baby boomer population, many of whom are keeping their original teeth longer than previous generations did, is also playing a role in increased demand. In fact, the BLS projects the demand for dental assistants to increase by 31 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, far faster than the occupational average (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

According to BLS data, the median national annual wage of dental assistants was $34,500 as of May 2012. Salary may depend on experience, education, and whether the state allows dental assistants to perform advanced tasks. If you are interested in health care, similar careers that may be of interest to you are medical assistant and dental hygienist. Working as a medical assistant is most similar except that the doctor's office will have a different specialty. Medical assistants have also had a slightly lower median national annual wage -- $29,370 as of May 2012. Working as a dental hygienist requires separate education and certification, but can pay significantly more, with a median national annual wage of $70,210 in May 2012 (bls.gov/oes, 2013).


Sources:

"Dental Assistants," May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 29, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes253011.htm

"Dental Assistants," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 26, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm

"Dental Hygienists," May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 29, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292021.htm

"Medical Assistants," May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 29, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319092.htm

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