How to Become a Dental Assistant in Arkansas
Those interested in pursuing a career as a dental assistant in Arkansas have several choices available to them. They can enter the field straight out of high school, or attend a post-secondary institution to become a regular dental assistant or attend a particular program to become a registered dental assistant (RDA). Whether registered or not, working as a dental assistant is an entry-level position that, while restrictive in its duties, gives those interested in the dental industry a wide range of experience working around a dental office.
Duties of Dental Assistants
Non-registered dental assistants can expect to perform the following duties:
- Perform administrative tasks
- Receive and prepare patients for treatments
- Sterilize and maintain dental tools
- Record patient vitals and chairside assistance
- Inspect and record data related to patients mouth and teeth
- Apply fluoride and place rubber dams
- Share information regarding oral hygiene
Registered dental assistants and or those who hold expanded duty permits may perform some of the following duties:
- Administering and monitoring of oxygen and nitrous oxide
- Sedation monitoring
- Coronal polishing
- Sealant application
- Operation of radiography equipment
Dental Assistant Schools in Arkansas
Getting registered is not required, nor is attending post-secondary education. Still, it can be advantageous as many dental offices look specifically for employees that have the ability to perform more advanced duties. In order to become registered, you need to attend a program that is approved by the Commission of Dental Assistants (CODA). Dental assisting programs typically award a certificate or diploma. CODA-accredited dental assisting programs must meet Accredited courses generally take 9-11 months to complete. In other to search dental assistant programs in Arkansas, here are some options that you have:
You can look for dental assistant programs at community colleges or technical schools in your area. Many of these schools offer certificate or diploma programs that can be completed in one year or less. Some of these programs may also offer an Associate’s degree, which would take two years to complete.
You can also look for online programs that offer dental assistant training. These programs are often shorter in length than traditional programs, and you may be able to complete them in as little as six months.
You can also look for apprenticeship programs that offer on-the-job training. These programs can last up to two years, and you will be able to work under the supervision of a licensed dental assistant while completing your training.
There are two schools in Arkansas that offer approved programs
- Arkansas Northeastern College, Blytheville, AK
- University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College, North Little Rock, AK
If you would prefer to study from home or at your own pace, you can get started online through Penn Foster Career School. This is also an excellent option for those who are unable to commute or need to work around a pre-set work schedule.
Registered Dental Assistant
Getting registered is not necessary but can open many doors to more advanced careers in different areas of the dental industry in the future. There are two different ways to approach becoming registered, you must,
- Have graduated from a CODA-accredited dental assisting program
- Possess a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)
You will then need to fill out an application through the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners. The application process costs $75 and must be paid through check or money order. Upon receipt of the application, the board will mail the exam that covers The Dental Practice Act/Dental Corporation Act/Rules and Regulations. Students must achieve 75 percent or higher in order to pass the exam.
The next step for registered dental assistants would be to apply for permits for any expanded duty privileges that they may be interested in. The duties that an RDA can apply for are:
- Nitrous oxide administration and monitoring
- Dental radiography
- Coronal polishing
- Sedation monitoring
Getting Certified as a Dental Assistant
Beyond getting registered, some dental assistants may wish to become certified. Getting certified is a different process than getting registered, and you do not need to be registered in order to pursue getting nationally certified. Certification is sought through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and is obtained by completing three examination components.
- General Chairside Assisting (GC)
- Infection Control (ICE)
- Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
Students can complete the sections of the exams all at once or separately, and they can be taken at their own pace, but all three sections must be finished within five years. All exams are taken through Pearson VUE test centers.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations in Dental Assisting
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dental assistant in the U.S can make an average salary of $41,180. The outlook for someone interested in becoming a DA is exceptionally positive. From 2019 to 2029, employment of dental assistants is expected to increase by up to 7 percent, which is considered faster than the average for all occupations in the U.S.
In Arkansas specifically the average earnings for a DA in 2020 was $36,480, a bit lower than the national average, but not by much. On the higher end of the scale, some employees were bringing home $48,950. The BLS estimates that there will be 3,210 dental assistant jobs in 2026 up from 2,840 in 2018.
The largest employers of dental assistants in Arkansas are dental offices, but there are other where you can find employment. Consider searching out universities and colleges, physician’s offices and even medical laboratories. Larger cities will also offer more opportunities for employment than smaller towns. The largest city centers in Arkansas are Little Rock, Fort Smith, and Fayetteville.
For those seeking more information on becoming a dental assistant in Arkansas the following are some helpful resources:
- Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners
- Arkansas State Dental Association
- American Dental Assistants Association
- En español
- Dental assistant salaries in Arkansas
- Dental hygiene schools in Arkansas
- How to Become a Dentist
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