Dental Assistant Certification: What It Is, How To Get It, And What Kind Of Pay To Expect

Dental assistants are akin to nursing assistants; they are at the same entry level position in their respective career paths. However, both dental and nursing assistants can make decent pay, and the process to become certified is relatively simple. If you are thinking about becoming a dental assistant, here is what the job entails, how to become certified, and what kind of pay to expect.

​Dental Assistant Job Description

​In short, you assist the dentist and/or the hygienist with their tasks in caring for patients. You set up their tool trays and help organize supplies. You fill the drawers in each room and keep things well-stocked. You may also assist with pre- and post-patient care when patients need help to relax and/or wake up from sedation dentistry. Cleaning instruments may be part of your job, too. 

Education and Certification

​Certification to become a dental assistant comes at the end of a forty- to eighty-hour course of study. You can take the course via a vocational school over the course of three to six weeks, depending on how quickly you want to complete it. There is also dental assistant school that completes the education portion in ten Saturdays. Some of the coursework may also be taken online, but you will still need to make time to finish the hands-on portion in a dental office. Once you have completed the coursework, the dentist who is training you and the group you are with will send in your signed paperwork to your state's dental certification board. You will receive your certificate card in the mail about three weeks after that, possibly sooner. 

​What Kind of Pay to Expect

​There is quite a wide range of pay for dental assistants. The least you can expect is around eight dollars an hour. The most any dental assistant can expect is about fifteen dollars an hour. It just depends where you live and work. Some cities and states have a shortage with a high demand for dental assistants, so it these areas pay more and offer hiring bonuses to get more dental assistants to work there. Your state has a tally on the current number of dental assistants working and the percentage of unfilled dental assistant jobs. These statistics will tell you whether or not the job in your area is in high demand, and thus potentially paying a higher rate of pay for the work.

For more information, reach out to schools like New Mexico Institute of Dental Assisting