Dental Assistant Job Outlook – California
Are you passionate about serving your community and helping others? Does the thought of providing dental care and bringing smiles to people’s faces every day excite you? Then an exciting career as a dental assistant could be your true calling. Apart from being kind-hearted and caring individuals, dental assistants develop excellent communication, organizational, and interpersonal skills.
Dental assistants are truly multi-talented professionals. From taking x-rays, patient appointment scheduling, to assisting dentists during clinical procedures, dental assistants face different challenges every day. However, dental assistants are different from dental hygienists; the primary difference is that hygienists require more education and perform more specialized clinical tasks such as teeth cleaning and administering anesthesia.
If you wish to know more about the dental profession, becoming a dental assistant is an excellent career-starting point. This guide offers everything you need to know about fast-tracking your career with our dental assisting program.
Like all health-related occupations, the job outlook for dental assistants continues to be bright. According to the CA Employment Development Department (EDD – CA), jobs for Dental Assistants are expected to increase in CA by 16.5%, or 8,100 jobs between 2016 and 2026. In CA, the number of Dental Assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. The future is bright for dental professionals.
Employability in any industry or profession is driven by demand. According to EDD-CA, the demand for Dental Assistants will be pushed by the need to spare the dentist the more routine tasks in favor of more complex procedures. The majority of job openings will occur due to the need to replace workers who retire, transfer to other occupations, or leave the labor force. Many dental assisting opportunities are for entry-level positions. Additionally, population growth and greater retention of natural teeth by middle-aged and older people should further fuel demand for dental services.
Dental Assistant Salary
According to EDD-CA, the median wage in 2020 for Dental Assistants in CA was $42,562 annually, or $20.46 hourly.
Additionally, BLS notes the following four highest-paying localities in California for dental assistants in May 2019:
In addition to being vital members of the dental team, dental assistants also enjoy many career benefits. According to the American Dental Association, dental assistants have the following career benefits and advantages:
Variety: the dental industry offers versatile and exciting job environments, opportunities, and roles for dental assistants.
Flexibility: Dental assistants are free to pursue either a full-time career, or they can opt for a part-time job while continuing their education.
Top-notch working conditions: Dental assistants work in a professional, pleasant, people-oriented, and comfortable environment.
Personal satisfaction: Perhaps the biggest benefit of being a dental assistant is the personal satisfaction and respect they gain from helping patients.
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Dental assistants help the dentist in a variety of clinical and administrative tasks. Some of their duties typically include:
- Ensure patients are as comfortable as possible in the dental chair
- Prepare the patients and the operatory for treatment
- Assist the dentist chairside
- Sterilize dental instruments and ensure their availability during procedures
- Instruct patients on postoperative and general oral health care
- Take x-rays and perform various laboratory-related tasks
- Record treatment information in patient records
- Appointment scheduling
- Take preliminary impressions
What is a Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant Like?
A typical day in a dental assistant’s life includes helping patients and working closely with dentists, dental hygienists, and patients. Many dental assistants work full-time, while others may also work evenings, weekends, or part-time depending on the scheduling and patient capacity of the dental office they work for.
Perhaps the most critical role dental assistants provide is their chairside support of the dentist and patients. This typically requires tasks such as ensuring sterilization and availability of instruments and equipment based on the procedure that the dentist has planned. Dental assistants can prepare impression material or 3D intraoral scans for permanent or temporary restorations.
Dental assistants are also tasked with documenting patients’ medical and dental histories and may record patients’ vital signs, when needed. Additionally, dental assistants provide patient education on dental procedures, postoperative care, and oral hygiene.
Find Your Path as a Dental Assistant
California Dental Institute is committed to providing dental education and hands-on training on the skills that are be essential in dental assisting.
Skills for Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are expected to possess a combination of technical/clinical and soft skills. Our educational program has been designed to develop these skills in our students through a blend of classroom education and hands-on training. Dental assistants typically require the following technical/clinical skills:
- Dental equipment operation and software usage
- Taking traditional impressions or 3D intraoral scans
- Taking digital X-rays
- Application of topical fluoride and topical anesthetics
- Infection control and procedures
According to the BLS, Some Essential Qualities of Dental Assistants Include:
- Detail oriented
- Precision and dexterity
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Good listener
- Administrative skills
Become a Dental Assistant in California
To become a dental assistant in California, one needs formal education and/or training and licensure. The following steps are required in becoming a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA), duly licensed by the Dental Board of California:
While dental assistants can learn on-the-job, graduating from a certified program is beneficial for individuals aspiring to become licensed dental assistants. Another distinct advantage of such courses is that they typically include the Board-required courses on infection control, radiation safety, and basic life support.
In California, if you wish to work as an unlicensed dental assistant, you are required to fulfill the following requirements:
- Board-approved course completion in the California Dental Practice Act
- Board-approved 8-hour course in infection control
- Basic life support course accepted by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
Do You Need to be Certified to Work as a Dental Assistant?
Kickstart Your Career as a Dental Assistant
Small class sizes, hands-on training, along with a state-of-the-art facility, provide the ideal environment to learn the skills you need.
What to Look for in a good Dental Assisting Program?
Choosing a dental assisting program is a decision that must not be taken lightly. A top-notch dental assisting program should provide a carefully-tailored blend of classroom knowledge and hands-on training to prepare you for an exciting career in dental assisting. When choosing a dental assisting program, you must consider the following:
Hands-on training: Dental assisting is all about practical work. Make sure you select a program that offers clinical observation and hands-on experience.
Location: Location is a critical factor to consider when choosing an on-campus dental assistant program. You must think about how far you are willing to commute and explore programs in your area – including the time and cost involved.
Duration: Your program’s duration depends on whether you wish to pursue an associate degree or certificate. Generally, an associate degree takes longer than a dental assisting certificate.
Cost: Consider the fees you pay for a dental assisting program as an investment. Before selecting a program, consider how much you can spend on this program, and then choose accordingly. You should also check for available scholarships, financial aid, or flexible payment plans offered by each institute.
BPPE Approved Course: CA state approved program which offers board and state approved curriculum
Choosing Between a Dental Assisting Associate’s Degree or Certificate
Choosing whether to pursue a dental assisting associate’s degree or certificate depends on your career goals and future aspirations. An associate’s degree in a dental assisting program potentially offers better earning potential and career growth opportunities, as it is easier to transfer your credits from an associate degree to a bachelor’s program. However, a dental assisting certificate program is shorter and more cost-effective when it comes to the cost and time invested.
If you have plans to start your career as a dental assistant in the future, pursuing a certificate is an excellent way of setting yourself apart from other entry-level applicants. Alternatively, if you wish to use your dental assistant education as a steppingstone to become a dental hygienist or a dentist.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?
Depending on the career path you’re pursuing, becoming a dental assistant may take anywhere from 4-weeks to two years. Certificate programs generally take nine to eleven months, while associate degree programs take about twenty-four months.
What Courses Will I Need to Take in a Dental Assisting Program?
The dental assisting program at California Dental Institute has been tailored to fulfill national and CA state-specific certification requirements. Your dental assisting classes to cover the following topics:
- Dental anatomy
- Dental materials, equipment, and instruments
- Radiation safety protocols
- Cross-contamination prevention and control
- Basic Life Support (BLS)
- Dental law and ethics
- Coronal polishing
- Dental software usage and handling
- Patient care and management
- Dental office management
What to Look for in a Dental Assisting Program
Many dentists generally hire two or more dental assistants for their practice(s) to handle the workload, as per the ADA. According to the ADA, dental assistants can also find employment opportunities in various settings, such as solo and group practices, specialty orthodontic, pedodontic, or periodontic dental implant practices, public health dentistry, hospital dental practice, dental school clinics, dental insurance companies, technical or vocational schools, and dental equipment and material sales.
Fortunately, currently, there are many dental assisting jobs available in California. According to the BLS, California boasts the highest employment level of dental assistants. Additionally, per the BLS, the state of California offers the third “highest concentration of jobs and location quotients” among all US states.
According to IBISWorld’s 2018 market report, some major dental companies in California include:
- California Dental Group
- Hospitality Dental & Orthodontics
- Western Dental & Orthodontics
- West Coast Dental and Orthodontics
Launch a Career in Dental Assisting with California Dental Institute
Are you interested in pursuing a dental assistant career? California Dental Institute’s Dental Assisting program offers the perfect combination of training in patient care and office and laboratory administrative duties. With our dental assistant program, you will earn certifications in Dental Radiation Safety, CPR, Infection Control, Dental Law, and Ethics. After completing coronal polish and pit and fissure sealants, our students can undertake the Dental Board of California Examination for state licensure. The California Dental Institute faculty prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their desired specializations and individual majors. The institute does not guarantee successful clearance of these exams or subsequent certification/ licensure due to completing the program.
California Dental Institute’s Dental Assisting Students and Faculty
California Dental Institute is committed to ensuring the personal, academic, and professional success of its students. California Dental Institute takes pride in having a credentialed faculty that brings many years of knowledge and experience to the classroom and our clinic. Our faculty is passionate about helping you succeed and prosper. Whether you’re preparing for your first job or making a career switch, there’s a place for you here at California Dental Institute.
California Dental Institute’s students age range from high school graduates to people looking for a career change later in their lives. We take pride in making sure the staff knows your story to offer the individual help and attention that is needed for your success.