Dental Assistant

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You may be interested in a career as a Dental Assistant if you're the sort of person who:
 
  • has excellent communication skills
  • enjoy interacting with other people
  • is organised and an efficient manager of their time
  • is meticulous and pays great attention to detail * possesses good manual dexterity
  • enjoys responsibility
  • has the ability to comprehend and follow instructions
  • is skilled at multitasking

Dental Assistants work as part of a wider dental team, primarily with Dentists, but also with Dental Specialists, Oral Health Therapists, Dental Hygienists and Dental Prosthetists.

 

A typical day

As part of a team of dental professionals, your day will encompass a diverse range of activities that will usually be determined by the needs of your particular practice.

This might include (depending on the requirements of the practice where you work):
 
  • Assisting dentists, hygienists and therapists with a variety of dental procedures
  • Preparing for and cleaning up after procedures, including the preparation of materials used in these treatments
  • Assisting the dentist during these procedures e.g. passing instruments, operating suction apparatus
  • Efficient administration of the practice including stock control
  • Developing and mounting X-rays, and operating digital imaging equipment (to do this you may need to obtain a radiation license from your state’s licensing authority)
  • Acting as the first point of contact for patients at reception - taking payment, scheduling appointments, preparing them for procedures, explaining courses of prescribed treatments, updating patient records


The places you can work

The majority of dental assistants work in private or specialist practice where they perform an extensive variety of tasks alongside the rest of the dental team.

Positions are also available in a number of settings including:
 
  • Public community dental health clinics incorporating community education on good oral health practices if appropriately qualified
  • Australian Defence Force assisting in the care of military personnel
  • Hospital dental clinics
After obtaining the requisite qualifications or experience, dental assistants can also work as practice managers, research assistants, educators and dental sales representatives and consultants.
 


Obtaining the necessary qualifications

While it is possible to work as a dental assistant without formal qualifications, undertaking vocational
training in the form of a Certificate III in Dental Assisting will substantially increase your chances of employment, financial remuneration and career advancement.

You can study both this course, and the more advanced Certificate IV in Dental Assisting, which covers subjects such as radiography, practice administration and general anesthesia, via a number of vendors including TAFE and your professional association.

For an up-to-date range of vendor and locations, check out the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Your association is the Dental Assistants Professional Association (DAPA).
 


Regulatory requirements

Dental assistants aren't required to be registered with the Dental Board of Australia but they do need to comply in some states and territories with codes of conduct for health professionals.

If you have obtained a Certificate IV in Dental Assisting - Dental Radiography and are required to operate dental radiation apparatus as a part of your duties, you may need to obtain a license from the relevant radiation authority in your state or territory.

In addition, while it is not mandatory, it's highly recommended that you be vaccinated for Hepatitis B and Tetanus along the usual suite of childhood inoculations for measles, mumps, chickenpox and polio. You may be also be required by your employer to get annual flu vaccinations.

For further information on job prospects, earning, vacancies and training, consult Job Outlook.