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5 Misconceptions About Being a Dental Assistant


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Choosing a vocation is no easy feat. From our earliest elementary school days, we're often asked what we'd like to do when we grow up. The answer shifts with time, since deciding which career path to take can be incredibly tough. While education and experience can help guide a person to their ideal job, the choice is often made based upon myths and misconceptions about a particular field.

Many people eager to learn a new trade and help others opt to pursue a certificate in dental assisting. Before you decide to go back to school for this kind of career, it's important to separate fact from fiction. There are a lot of misconceptions about working as a dental assistant, and understanding what the job requires can help you make an informed decision. Here are just a handful of the most common dental assistant myths dispelled:

Myth 1: It's Easy to Become a Dental Assistant

Most jobs in the healthcare field require training, education and certification. No matter which aspect of dentistry interests you most, you'll likely need some form of school or training before you begin your new career. While becoming a dental assistant may seem relatively easy when compared with other vocations, the path isn't as clear cut as you might expect.

Dental assisting programs can be completed in as little as nine months. While this is nothing compared to the years of medical school required of dentists themselves, assistants are in for a rigorous few months. It's true that with enough studying, you can complete a dental assistant training program and begin your new career in less than a year. Many overlook the certification exam required for professional practice, though.

Dental assistants in Canada must take and pass the NDAEB, a certification exam offered by the National Dental Assisting Examining Board. This challenging test requires expert knowledge of subjects like radiography, anaesthesiology, and patient care. With enough preparation, aspiring dental assistants can pass on their first attempt. Fail to study, though, and you may end up taking the exam over and over until you earn a high enough score to pass.

Myth 2: There's No Opportunity for Growth

You might not expect much upward mobility associated with a career as a dental assistant. This couldn't be farther from the truth! The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted a massive 19 percent growth in the field by 2026. This means that certified dental assistants will have their pick of positions as the demand for their services grows throughout the next decade.

After working in the field for some time, many dental assistants opt to go back to school and become a hygienist or technician. Some even choose to apply to medical school and become a dentist. With a front row seat to the perks of a DDS, it's no surprise that ambitious dental assistants choose to further their education and challenge themselves in new, exciting ways.

Myth 3: Dental Assisting Doesn't Pay Very Well

Salaries in any field can vary based on location, cost of living, credentials and experience level. With dental assisting, though, professionals can expect to earn a healthy wage starting at around $35,000 a year. As you gain more experience in the field, your salary will naturally increase to reflect your skills. Given the growing demand for such professionals, dental assistants will have the upper hand when negotiating fair wages.

It's true that dental assisting doesn't pay as well as what a dentist makes, but given the relatively low barrier of entry to the field, the salary is more than appropriate. While some dental assistants opt to return to school to learn more about their field and increase their duties around the office, many are happy with the short training period required for the career. Minimal student loans help make a dental assistant salary stretch even further!

Myth 4: Dental Assistants Work Long Hours

Some dental assistants work long hours by choice, but in general, the role is incredibly flexible. Many opt to work only part time while raising a family, and others find positions in clinics open nights and weekends. Whatever your preferred schedule, chances are good you can find a position that works with your lifestyle.

Even if you decide to work full time as a dental assistant, the hours aren't especially long. Standard eight hour shifts will have you on your feet for much of the day, but unless you decide to go into emergency dentistry, your hours will be fairly predictable. You aren't likely to be called in on your day off in this line of work!

Myth 5: Dental Assistant Tasks are Tedious

Every job has some degree of tedium, and dental assisting is no different. While sterilizing instruments and answering phones might not be the most exciting duties in the world, they're only a fraction of the tasks handled by a dental assistant on a daily basis. In fact, dental assistants perform a wide variety of things in an average shift, making this career anything but boring. From maintaining patient records to completing lab tests and teaching patients about the importance of oral health, there's always something new happening. The versatility of duties is part of what makes dental assistant jobs so appealing!

Study for Your NDAEB Now

If you're serious about becoming a dental assistant in Canada, you'll need to start preparing for your NDAEB exam as soon as you complete your training. Practice exams can help make studying for the NDAEB easy! Get started with a free sample practice exam now.