How to become a dental assistant

As a dental assistant, you are the dentists right-hand wo/man. You support the dentist to carry out his duties and help the practice to run smoothly. If you are an organisational pro, and you have a passion for healthcare and oral hygiene then, why not consider becoming a dental assistant? As the assistant, you focus on practical tasks like preparing the treatment room and equipment. Then, you also make sure patients feel welcome getting them settled in the dentist’s chair. In this rewarding career, you play a role helping people to maintain good dental hygiene. Furthermore, you build up valuable experience which can lead to exciting career progressions.

Do you have a passion for helping people, and you believe everyone should be happy and comfortable with the smile they have? Then, consider a rewarding career in dental healthcare. Find out below the steps you need to take to become a dental assistant and reach for the first step on the ladder of a booming industry.

Step one: Choose a course

In order to become a dental assistant, you will need to study a vocational course. The course will teach you the skills and knowledge to succeed in your chosen profession. You can expect the course to teach you the foundation of what you need to know. Then, you will learn more on the job once you get started.

Step two: Register with the Dental Hygienists Association Australia (DHAA)

Once you have graduated, (well done you) you will need to register with the DHAA. You must register with them before applying for work. You can find more information and how to go about registering using the resources section on this site. 

Step three: Look for your first job

Now the time has come to look for work. Experts predict the industry will continue to grow as demand for dental services grows. In fact, this is one of the most in-demand industries in Australia. When applying for work make sure to tailor your resume and cover letter for each application. Don’t forget to highlight your qualifications, registration with the DHAA, personal strengths, and experience you may have.

Step four: Consider a specialisation

Dental assistants have a wealth of opportunities in terms of career progression. After gaining experience you may want to take another course to develop your skills further. Then you increase your opportunities for progression. Here are three possible specialisations to consider.

Dental Assistant

Working alongside the dentist, dental assistants help with patient consultation and treatment. You prepare treatment rooms, sterilise equipment, hand tools to the dentist, retrieve files, document appointments and more. This is a busy rewarding role in which you do important tasks to help the dentist.

Sales and Marketing Manager

If you would like to take a new direction entirely then, you could consider becoming a sales and marketing manager. You would work for companies selling dental hygiene products. As a professional experienced in the field you are highly sought after. You will need to complete further studies in sales and marketing.

Editor/ Author

In this specialisation, you apply your knowledge working in publication. You may work on trade publications, journals, textbooks or websites. All intended for the consumption of dental professionals. Working as an author or editor you need very good writing skills. In addition, you need to work under pressure with tight deadlines, creative and pay very high attention to detail.

Consultant

As a consultant, you work in cooperation with dental practices. You give presentations and educate staff members on new treatments rising up in the industry. You may work with a practice putting together materials for staff or members of the public.

Dental Assistant Job Description

Working in the dental practice your days are busy, carrying out a wide variety of tasks. You focus on helping the dentist to carry out his duties. This could involve preparing the treatment area, making sure the room is clean, equipment ready and sterilised. Or you take on a customer facing role, welcoming the patient to the room, getting them settled in the chair. During the patient’s consultation with the dentist, you pass tools to the dentist and help by suctioning the mouth so the dentist can work. Furthermore, you help with technical tasks like developing x-rays or pouring, trimming, and polishing casts. Lastly, you give advice to the patients educating them on good dental hygiene practices and giving post-surgery care guidance.

Tasks

  • Greeting patients and settling them in the dentist chair
  • Using dental technology
  • Maintaining the supply inventory
  • Suctioning during dental procedures
  • Handing tools to the dentist
  • Placing equipment into the patient’s mouth

Skills for Success

Firstly, for success as a dental assistant, you will need to complete vocational training so you can learn everything you need to know. Your training will teach you practical skills as well as the knowledge to inform the actions you take. In the day to day operations of the dental practice, you communicate a lot with patients. Some of whom may be nervous or uncomfortable with dentistry. You need a good bedside manner, which is reassuring and calming. Over the course of the day, you carry out a number of practical tasks so you need to have the motivation to get all those tasks done. The hours are often long, and you are on your feet a lot of the time. Finally, you should pay excellent attention to detail and diligently follow instructions.

Skills and attributes

  • Dedication to patient care
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Excellent personal hygiene
  • Able to listen and follow instructions
  • Good communication skills

What is a Dental Assistant Salary in Australia?

In Australia, dental assistants earn a median wage of $40,365 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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