Becoming a dental assistant is an excellent career move for people hoping to eventually become dentists or orthodontists. In addition to undergoing specialized training and completing an educational program, aspiring dental assistants must meet the necessary age requirements for the job.
How Old Do You Need To Be to Become a Dental Assistant?
Since this profession involves using medical equipment and tools, you’ll need to be at least 18 before you can qualify for a dental assistant job. Some dental offices have trainee positions that allow underage workers to perform non-medical duties, but those programs are pretty rare.
Other Dental Assistant Qualifications
In addition to being of legal age, aspiring dental assistants will need at least a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. Some employers hire inexperienced workers and provide on-the-job training, while others prefer candidates who have completed a dental assistant program at a trade school or community college.
Dental Assistant School
During training, dental assistant students learn the fundamentals of oral care and procedures like:
- Taking diagnostic X-rays
- Fabricating and placing temporary tooth coverings
- Sterilizing dental tools and exam rooms
- Updating and maintaining patient’s dental records
- Collecting patient insurance information and billing details
An accredited dental assistant training program might take anywhere from four weeks to two years, depending on where you attend classes and what type of certificate or degree you’re going for.
In some states, you might also need to pass a state-approved competency exam and obtain an official certification before you can qualify for a dental assistant job. Being a certified dental assistant (CDA) can also make finding a position in this industry easier.
Check the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) database to learn about testing and certification requirements in your state.
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
As the job title suggests, dental assistants work alongside dentists to ensure patients receive quality dental care. A typical workday for these employees might include:
- Preparing examination rooms before appointments
- Assisting with dental checkups and screenings as needed
- Processing X-rays
- Making dental impressions
- Sterilizing and setting up dental instruments before a procedure
- Handing dental instruments to the dentist as needed
- Using suction hoses and other equipment to keep patient’s mouths dry during procedures
- Completing post-procedure cleanup tasks
Becoming a Dental Assistant
Aspiring dental assistants who complete their high school education and meet the standard age requirement of 18 can start applying for jobs at local dentist offices or enroll in a training program to gain more knowledge about the industry.
If you’re under 18, try to find available job openings for underage trainees in your area. You could also see if your high school has any career-tech programs that focus on dental hygiene or general allied health topics.