Becoming a dental assistant is often a stepping stone to other jobs. Many become basic duty dental assistants because they want to learn more about the dental field. After they are dental assistants, many go on to become expanded duty dental assistants or continue with schooling to become dental hygienists or dentists.
BASIC DUTY DENTAL ASSISTANT
Basic duty dental assistants can assist dentists in dental operations, such as fillings, crowns, root canals, and other procedures. After training, basic duty dental assistants can also perform regular cleanings on patients and take radiographs. Averagely, as of 2020, dental assistants make $30-46K a year depending on location and skill.
EXPANDED DUTY DENTAL ASSISTANT
Expanded duty dental assistants can perform fillings themselves after the dentist has prepared the tooth, perform scaling, and other more advanced duties around the office. Typically, expanded duty dental assistants make more per hour than basic duty dental assistants.
New Mexico requires dental assistants to pass the DANB’s various exams on different expanded duties, pass clinical exams, retain specific amounts of hours on the job, and then apply to the New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care for certification.
After gaining an associates degree, future dental hygienists then pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Dental hygienists can diagnose oral diseases such as gingivitis and perform oral cancer screenings. They also are trained to take dental impressions, radiographs, scaling, and more. As of 2020, on average, dental hygienists make $72,000 a year.
To apply to a dental school, you will need an undergraduate degree. To be accepted, you will need letters of recommendation, have completed specific courses throughout your undergraduate program, and pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). Dental school programs take another four years to complete, and then you’ll need to finish a residency. The residency you select will help you break into a more specialized profession within dentistry. Most dental residencies last two to three years, but more specialized and complex programs can last five to six years. Since dental school is extensive, it’s a great idea to shadow dentists, or become a dental assistant to help you make the decision to pursue the field. Dentists on average make $199,000 a year.
No matter where you decide to end up in the dental field, becoming a dental assistant in New Mexico can help you assess where you’d like to be. As a basic duty dental assistant, you can determine how you like to interact with patients, what types of procedures you admire most, and how you enjoy the day-to-day within a dental office. Start your journey today! Complete your basic duty dental assistant training in New Mexico online with the 90 Day Dental Assistant program.