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Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists Make an Impact

Want to give people something to smile about? Consider training to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist at a dental school near you.

First impressions
The duties of a dental assistant involve preparing equipment, taking X-rays, making impressions, providing patient education, and performing office management and other administrative tasks.

Dental hygienists share some of those duties, but these licensed oral health care professionals also clean teeth, apply fluorides, administer local anesthetics, remove sutures and dressings, chart patients' dental conditions, and much more.
 

Prep work for a dental career
The Commission on Dental Accreditation within the American Dental Association (ADA) has approved more than 265 dental assisting programs, most of which take two years or less to complete and lead to a dental hygienist certificate, dental diploma, or dental associate degree. Programs include classroom, lab, and preclinical instruction, as well as invaluable internship experience in dental schools, clinics, or dental offices.

Aspiring dental hygienists must be educated in ADA-accredited, college-level programs, too. More than 250 colleges and universities offer entry-level dental hygiene programs, and more than 70 offer baccalaureate and master's degree-completion programs. Each dental school program lasts about two to three years.
 

Make an impact at dental school
After completing a dental assisting program, you may choose to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam through the Dental Assisting National Board. This certification is recognized or required in 35 states.

To be eligible for licensure as a Registered Dental Hygienist, you must graduate from a nationally accredited dental hygiene program, successfully complete written and clinical exams, and meet any additional state requirements.

Healthy dental careers
Dental assistants held about 267,000 jobs in 2004, and there are currently more than 120,000 licensed dental hygienists nationwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment of both dental hygienists and dental assistants to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014, ranking these dental careers among the fastest growing occupations.

According to the BLS, median hourly earnings of dental assistants were $13.62 in May 2004; the highest 10 percent earned more than $19.97 an hour. Median hourly earnings of dental hygienists were $28.05 in May 2004; the highest 10 percent earned more than $40.70 an hour.

Choose a dental assisting or dental hygiene program, and sink your teeth into desirable dental careers.
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