Dental offices may have a dentist's name on the door, but usually, it takes more than just the dentist to handle the tasks that keep the business afloat. Instead, various workers, such as dental assistants, handle tasks from the moment the patients walk through the door till the practice closes for the day and prepares for the next day.
Dental assistant work is in very high demand right now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the field's growth rate at 11%, making it a high-demand career in Portland. Becoming a dental assistant is a rewarding and varied career, offering the chance to see the inner workings of a healthcare practice if you have a goal of continuing with your education to participate in some other aspect of the field. If you speak to any dentist who's gone through a hiring shortage, they'll tell you exactly the value of dental assistants. Offices run on the labor of these workers!
The Day of a Dental Assistant
The most general picture of a dental assistant career is that you do administrative tasks and patient care tasks to keep the dental office running smoothly. But let's play out what this might look like for a day of activity. For instance, you might:
- Arrive at the office and review the day's appointments, potentially verifying proper setup in the dental workstations for any particular procedures that need specialized equipment.
- Depending on your role, you then might greet patients and work on billing and payment issues at the front desk.
- You might then rotate into a task of sterilizing equipment and processing x-rays while moving lab tasks forward.
- When the dentist requests it, you might step in to hold suction hoses, pass instruments to the dentist, or update records in real-time on a nearby computer while the dentist talks over treatments.
- You might then educate patients on oral hygiene or discuss how they can support their oral health with practices like flossing, brushing, and using a fluoride mouthwash.
- When your patient is ready, you might be the person to walk them out and schedule their next patient appointment before returning to enter notes that need to be part of the patient's records.
- You might also work to input any necessary items for billing and payment.
As you can see, dentists can't efficiently fulfill their specific roles of evaluating and treating dental issues if they had to perform all the above tasks without assistance. Dental assistants are the lifeblood of a practice, seamlessly helping patients and keeping the practice organized all in one action-packed day.
Portland Community College Trains the Next Generation of Dental Assistants
Dental school takes a long time and can be expensive, depending on which school you attend. One of the benefits of being a dental assistant is that the training is rapid and flexible. It includes online and in-person components to address everything you need to know to become a dental assistant. Portland Community College offers a 9-month program that involves three terms of coursework to give dental assistants all they need to know before taking the Dental Assisting National Board Exams.
The course structure uses online classrooms to help students prepare for the onsite, hands-on training. That increases the efficiency of your in-person time, where you'll try out the methods and strategies needed daily in a dental practice. The courses cover everything from dental science to the business that underpins a successful dentistry practice and oral radiology, dental materials, and restorative procedures. Your comprehensive studies enable you to be well-versed in the techniques necessary for dental practices with a complete understanding of the role.
Even better, PCC is well-embedded in the vocational and business community of the Portland area. PCC works to connect students with real-life experience through externships. It allows them to get real work experience in a position for supervision and feedback, ensuring they learn proper techniques to be as prepared as possible for your first dental assistant role.
Find a Future as a Dental Assistant
If you are looking to find a career in healthcare, you aren't limited to careers that require many years of intensive study. Convenient, flexible, and affordable programs like the dental assisting program at PCC help students find their new healthcare passion every day. When dental assistant students graduate, they discover how great it is to be a vital part of a healthy dental practice. Learn more about the program today!