How to be a registered dental assistant – good paying jobs for refugees & immigrants

Registered dental assistants with a patient

Find out how to be a registered dental assistant

A career is dental health is a good choice if you are interested in helping people and in health care. There is more demand for dental health workers than there are trained people to fill the jobs, so it provides job security. One of the easier jobs to train for in dental health is that of a registered dental assistant.

About the job

Duties

A registered dental assistant is an important member of the dental team. He or she support the dentist and office staff. Dental assistant make appointments for patients scheduling and keep patient records. They help the dentist while he or she is seeing patients. They pass tools, get X-rays, and make sure the patient is comfortable.

Click here to watch a video about what a registered dental assistant does

Workplace

Most dental assistants will work at a dentist’s office that may have many dentists or just one. Other dental assistants will work at a medical center, where dentists are part of a bigger healthcare team.

Salary

Becoming a registered dental assistant can be can be a rewarding path. You get to help people take care of their dental needs and make a good income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2014, dental assistants made an average annual salary of $35,390.

Dental assisting is one of the fastest-growing careers in the United States.  The demand will keep growing, and dentists will need people to fill those roles.

Skills you will need

Hard skills: administrative skills, recording medical histories, taking x-rays, and using dental materials.

Soft skills: Dental assistants should have good communication skills to work alongside dentists and administrators. They must communicate professionally and kindly with patients. This is called having a good “chairside manner”.

Language skills: As an immigrant or refugee, you probably speak more than one language. Your language skills are a great asset in any job! Dental offices that see lots of patients with limited English. Your language skills may help patients communicate and feel comfortable.

Training

While few states do not require a license, most of them do. A dental assisting program can take anywhere from nine months to two years to complete, depending on whether it’s a certificate, diploma, or degree program.

Students typically complete a regstered dental assistant program at either a community college or technical school. In addition to classroom teaching, most programs provide hands-on learning opportunities in a clinical setting. Coursework commonly includes:

  • Oral anatomy
  • Dental materials
  • Dental office administration
  • Dental Pharmacology
  • Dental radiography
  • CPR and First Aid

Certification

registered dental assistant top 5Certification and licensing requirements vary by state. In states where certification is necessary, students typically pass the DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination. This 320-question exam is at Pearson VUE test centers and includes the following components:

  • General chairside behavior
  • Radiation health and safety
  • Infection control

How to get started

First, do research to find out the requirements in your state and the possible schools you may attend.

How to finance your education

Dental education can be expensive, so it’s important to plan ahead. The cost of a program can vary state to state, ranging from $850 to $7560. Some training programs can also have additional fees, such as registration exams, lab fees, and extra supplies.

Type of fee
Average cost
Registration $60
Certified dental assisting exam $125
Lab fees $560
Books and supplies $1,600

Research the school you will attend to figure out the cost. There are ways you can finance your education:

More resources


spotlightSPOTLIGHT: A former dental assistant who is a refugee from Syria donates his services to help people in need in the United States

Watch a BBC video about a mobile dental service

Remote Area Medical (RAM) travels to poor areas of the United States to give free dental care to people who cannot afford to go to dentists. This dentist from Syria (below) now living in Buffalo started work in the United States as a dental assistant. Like all RAM dental workers, he volunteers with the service to help those in need.

Registered dental assistant video image


Refugees shaking hands

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